Myth Busted: No, Coffee Doesn't Stunt Your Growth

Myth Busted: No, Coffee Doesn't Stunt Your Growth

Jake Bonneman Jake Bonneman
4 minutes of coffee drinking

We've all heard it before. The myth that drinking coffee will somehow stunt your growth.

Actually, I have to admit I hadn't ever heard this myth until now. But being in my 30s, having my growth stunted is a constant worry.

With all the pressure to become 8 feet tall from the media, the NBA, and Tinder profiles, the last thing I want is for my morning 6 cups of coffee to stand in my path now.

Did you ever hear this myth when you were younger? I assume it's just something parents say to their children to stop them from asking for coffee.

I can almost trick myself into thinking I might have heard this myth as a child when I asked if I could have coffee—then again, it's easy to temporarily trick me into thinking I remembered it being spelled Berenstein Bears, too.

Apparently, coffee stunting growth is a pretty common myth. So much so that a basic Googling finds pretty much every prestigious hospital in the Solar System giving their two cents. (Personally, I'd say their input counts as three cents.)

Apparently, Alicia Silverspoon's character even referenced this coffee myth in Clueless, but I only saw like 15 minutes of that movie at a friend's house. In 1996.

So.

Anyway, the myth goes like this:

"Don't drink that coffee kid! It'll stunt your growth! Kids and their skateboards and hula hoops!! Get off my lawn!!!"

The bust goes like this:

In the opinion of Harvard Medical School:

"There is no scientifically valid evidence to suggest that coffee can stunt a person's growth."

(Source: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/can-coffee-really-stunt-your-growth)

In the opinion of Johns Hopkins:

"No, coffee doesn't stunt a person's growth."

(Source: https://www.hopkinsallchildrens.org/Patients-Families/Health-Library/HealthDocNew/Does-Coffee-Stunt-Your-Growth)

If there's no evidence for this, where did the myth come from? There are two theories:

Theory A: Postum Did It

The Smithsonian says that the myth may have go back to the 1930s, and a thing called Postum. In 1933, Postum was launched as a coffee alternative, a breakfast drink that didn’t have caffeine in it. To help sell it, they released some sensational, memorable, blatantly incorrect advertising that talked about the effects of caffeine on children.

These pseudo-scientific claims (and the "pseudo" prefix is doing a lot of lifting there) included things like it being nerve poison, and an evil drink.

Today, I would say most people understand that coffee isn't a nerve poison. (And an evil drink? That's not how I would characterize coffee. They must have been thinking of Coca-Cola Blak.) However, the Smithsonian thinks that the stigma from the made-up science about on coffee's effects on children remained.

Theory B: People Are Confusing Two Myths

The idea that coffee stunted growth may also have come from the other misconception—that coffee causes osteoporosis (a condition that may be associated with loss of height).

But blaming coffee for height loss due to osteoporosis is wrong for a couple of reasons.

Number one being—and this part’s important—coffee doesn't cause osteoporosis.

These things do. Low calcium intake, lifelong lack of calcium, family history, hormones, glands, thyroids—you know, things that make sense.

Secondly, osteoporosis doesn't commonly cause height loss.

So even if coffee did play a role in causing osteoporosis (which, again, it doesn't), that still wouldn't be a good reason to think it would lead to stunted growth.

In fact, Cleveland Clinic, referencing a study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, says coffee can even be good for bone health.

Cleveland Clinic's Dr. Deal (not to be confused with the card-throwing supervillain) said of the results:

"For all those folks who drink lots of coffee and are concerned about the health effects of coffee, this is good news. It appears to show that coffee is, in general, probably good for bone health."

The bottom line is there is no evidence—zero, zilch, nada, etc.—to support the old wives' claim that coffee stunts growth. 

In fact, coffee actually has quite a few health benefits. Better glucose processing, lower risk of death from stroke, several types of cancer, and cardiovascular disease if you care about stuff like that, et cetera, et cetera.

So, there's no need to worry about coffee drinkage affecting your height.

Enjoy your coffee in good health—and without fears about stunting your growth. Your height will be just fine.

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