Coffee Myths Debunked: Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?

Will Coffee Make You Short and Where Did the Myth of Coffee Stunting Your Growth Come From? Here, We Discuss it All!

Do you remember taking a sip of your mom's morning coffee as a child and being told off? Maybe you were lectured with something along the lines of “Put that down it will stunt your growth!” So is this actually true?

As an adult (especially if you are a short adult) you may wonder if you could have been taller had you only left your mother's cup of Joe alone. So what are the actual facts surrounding this coffee colloquialism, and can Java genuinely stunt your growth? That's exactly what we are here to talk about! 


Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?

(Spoiler Alert: The answer is no.) 

We’ll cut to the chase. The answer to whether coffee stunts your growth is a simple “no”. Coffee itself does not impact growth and development and there's no truth to the myth that coffee will prevent kids from getting taller. 

However, it's still important to understand why this myth is in circulation and where it comes from. Although the roots of this coffee myth are unknown for certain, there are some historical events that may come into play.

Here, we will go over everything you need to know about coffee, growth, caffeine consumption, and other interesting facts so that latte lovers and coffee connoisseurs will be fully informed the next time they take a sip of coffee in the morning! 


Coffee and Stunted Growth: Possible Myth Origins About Coffee Making You Short

While no one is exactly positive about where the belief of coffee stunting your growth originally came from, there is a good chance that this idea took root in American culture many years ago, possibly during the Great Depression era. 

During this time period of child labor in American history, coffee was a commodity that many Americans found difficult to afford. In fact, many could only acquire coffee at soup kitchens. America's most notorious gangster, Al Capone, even served up hot coffee and rolls at a soup kitchen he ran in Chicago. A large banner above this soup kitchen read: “Free soup, coffee, and donuts for the unemployed.” 

Many children and adults alike visited this soup kitchen and ones like it nationwide during the era. At the time, children were often overworked, underfed, and thus, likely to achieve lower heights in adulthood. (It is estimated that over 20,000 schools in America closed during this period in the 1930s. Instead of going to school, a majority of children entered the workforce.)

These poor conditions are likely what actually led to stunted growth in the American youth population. Soup kitchens frequented by youths offering hot coffee as a morning pick-me-up may have then been associated with their ultimate resulting undersized adult heights. 

Caffeine in Coffee as an Appetite Suppressant 

Caffeine is also a well-known appetite suppressant. According to recent studies on metabolism, the polyphenol and caffeine content in coffee can lead to less food intake. It stands to reason that if children were drinking coffee before heading out to work at a steel mill or chop lumber, their appetite would be less ravenous throughout the day. So, they were less likely to eat, and thus less likely to grow as tall as they might have with adequate nutrition. 

Caffeine Consumption and Energy Output

The caffeine in coffee can also create an energy boost. The more movement, the more calories burned. So, coffee may be correlated with weight loss. Since kids shouldn’t be losing weight, but instead growing up, in most situations, suppressing the appetite of a child isn’t generally a great idea. 


Can kids drink coffee? 

According to recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics, caffeinated tea, coffee, soda, sports drinks, and other products should be avoided for children under the age of 12. There are many reasons for this and none of them have to do with stunting growth. 

Instead, children should avoid caffeine because It can have negative impacts including insomnia, hyperactivity, nausea, and increased energy. Moreover, caffeine may create a dependency in children, who are more prone to its effects due to being smaller and of lower weight compared to adults. 


Can Coffee Stop You From Growing? Nope!

(But You Still Probably Shouldn’t Give it to Kids.) 

When it comes down to it, drinking coffee does not directly correlate with a lower height being achieved as an adult. However, coffee contains caffeine. Caffeine is known to suppress the appetite, and as a stimulant, it can take away your drive to eat more food. Moreover, the caffeine in coffee increases energy output. 

Since children need food to grow and produce energy, it stands to reason that children who are regularly drinking coffee could have a lower appetite yet move around more. In time, this could theoretically lead to a lower intake of the nutrition. Coffee can also have some other negative impacts on children, so the practice of giving kids coffee is generally thought to be a bad idea. 

According to recommendations from pediatricians, since children are smaller than adults, they are more prone to the effects of caffeine. As such, children under the age of 12 should avoid an excessive intake of caffeine in general. This means that kids shouldn't avoid coffee because it will stunt their growth, but rather, they should avoid excessive caffeine intake as a rule of thumb. 


Final Thoughts On This Prevalent Coffee Myth

To date, no one has ever stopped growing from drinking coffee. After the Great Depression, coffee may have been blamed for people being shorter, even though there's a good chance that malnutrition and poor lifestyle habits were at the root of the problem.


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