Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?
Over the years, coffee has been investigated for all sorts of health effects.
The research has cleared coffee’s reputation on most things, but one question is still doing the rounds; does caffeine stunt your growth?
This seems to be linked to a concern that caffeine can cause osteoporosis, but there is also a version where a cup of Joe apparently stunts children’s growth.
So, does coffee make you short? Read on to find out.
Caffeine and Osteoporosis
If you made use of a time machine and hopped back a few decades, you’d find scientists wondering whether caffeine caused the body to excrete calcium. They theorised that drinking too much coffee could be what causes ‘brittle bone disease’, a.k.a. osteoporosis.
Osteoporosis is a condition where bone becomes less dense over time and loses quality.
This can lead to broken bones and, if the vertebrae crumble, to lack of height.
It did seem like coffee drinkers were at higher risk of osteoporosis, so you can probably see why scientists wondered if coffee does stunt growth.
The good news is that this correlation didn’t have anything to do with a good brew.
It was just that coffee drinkers tended to drink less milk, and so they were getting less calcium in their diet.
Does Coffee Stunt Growth?
But does caffeine stunt your growth as a child?
You might think that’s because it’s rare to see a child trip into Starbucks and ask for an espresso with an extra shot. But adolescents today are increasing their caffeine consumption.
Most of that is consumed through soda and energy drinks.
The truth is that even if you do have revved up children, there’s no evidence that caffeine is affecting their growth.
Simply put, there’s no scientific link between drinking coffee, or caffeinated drinks, and growth problems.
What about in pregnancy?
One of the many bits of health advice women are given when they find out they are expecting a child, is to limit their caffeine intake.
The permitted amount varies around the world, but it’s usually between 150 and 300 mg per day.
That’s 1-2 cups of filter coffee, to you & me.
Unlike the other examples we’ve talked about so far, there is some hard science to back this idea up.
Caffeine is one of the substances that can pass from mother to baby via the placenta.
Caffeine does stunt growth of the fetus - it’s been linked to low birthweight babies and an increased risk of miscarriage.
What Does Stunt Bone Growth?
So if coffee doesn’t stop our bones growing longer or stronger, then what can?
The answer is… caffeine. Confused? Don’t be, the link is simple but not as obvious.
A paper from the American Academy of Pediatrics found caffeine had a stimulant effect on children, causing interrupted sleep. The children’s disrupted sleep pattern then caused a reduction in the amount of Human Growth Hormones (HGH) released.
These hormones are pivotal for healthy growth (and repair) across all age groups, but they are abundant in children due to our rapid growth in the early years. Hence, giving children caffeinated drinks is not a good idea.
HGH stimulates and coordinates growth across the entire body and the majority of HGH is released into the bloodstream during ‘deep sleep’ - our quality sleep time. (See a great sleep time idea for coffee lovers here.)
Family gene pools are largely responsible for deciding our height, however a lack of sleep, or interrupted sleep can hinder the release of our Human Growth Hormones (HGH).
To find out more about the optimal times for your final cup of coffee each watch this video:
What are the drawbacks of coffee?
With all the research that has been done, results show that for the most part enjoying a moderate amount of coffee each day isn’t going to do you any harm at all. However, for some people, coffee can leave them with an unpleasant, jittery feeling.
Others may find that caffeine temporarily raises their blood pressure.
It’s also not a great idea to drink coffee later in the day, because it can keep you awake at night.
Watch this video to find out how caffeine keeps you awake and alert!
What’s the alternative?
As we’ve said, for most people there’s no reason to avoid drinking coffee.
Actually, there are lots of positive health impacts a few cups a day can bring.
But if you are pregnant or you have been told to limit your caffeine intake then it might be a good idea to switch to decaf.
Keep in mind, though, that decaf is not the same as no-caf.
In fact, decaf coffee is better called low-caf. You may also want to avoid some specific methods of decaffeination, which use chemicals. Look for brands that have been swiss-water decaffeinated, a process that uses only water.
We’ve reviewed some of the best decaf coffee beans for you!
If it’s a genuinely no-cafe beverage that you’re after then consider something like herbal tea.
We started by asking does coffee make you short?
The answer is, no.
Drinking coffee will not make you shrink, so don’t throw back mug after mug hoping to fit into the cockpit of a formula 1 car. It isn’t going to help.
Caffeine may affect growth in unborn babies, though, so it is definitely worth following medical advice if you’re pregnant.
However, disrupted sleep can stunt your growth.
If you are tempted by a late afternoon coffee, consider this:
- How long the caffeine will stay in your system.
- If you are in the habit of having a coffee late in the day, shift your final cup to an earlier time slot.
Even though we have reached our final height by adulthood, our body is still growing, repairing and replacing cells on a daily basis. To do this it needs quality fuel and a lifestyle which includes physical activity and quality sleep. (See a great sleep time idea for coffee lovers here.)
What time do you have your final cup of brew each day? Do you want to know what time others have theirs? Let us know in the comments.