Coffee has been said to cause stunted growth in adolescents and teens due to caffeine’s interaction with calcium. But is it true? Can coffee stunt your growth? What do the studies reveal?
Coffee cannot stunt growth. While coffee does slightly increase calcium elimination, the amount eliminated is so small that it can easily be replaced with a supplement or a slight increase in whole milk consumption.
Coffee gets a lot of love and equally as much hate according to consumerism’s varying moods. All kinds of myths and rumors have been floated about this aromatic liquid. Here we separate fact from fiction. Keep reading to learn the truth.
Will Coffee Stunt Your Growth?
Simply put, no, coffee will not stunt your growth. The perceived connection between coffee consumption and decreased bone density is likely due instead to an insufficient intake of calcium.
For many years, parents have been cautioned against letting children and teenagers drink caffeine because it was assumed that the caffeine would hinder bone growth. Caffeine does tend to slightly increase the body’s elimination of calcium but in amounts so minuscule that it can easily be replaced through diet or supplements.
Besides, most teens have completed the growth stage before they become interested in drinking coffee. Therefore, abnormal structural formation would most likely be due to genetics or disease processes and only exacerbated by lifestyle choices.
After all, energy drinks like Red Bull have more caffeine than coffee does, and many teens consume them like water. So, if caffeine is a no-no for adolescents and teenagers related to growth concerns, other items besides coffee should be blacklisted.
The extent of growth is determined by genetics. You won’t be any taller or shorter because you drank coffee. However, there are other risks linked to coffee consumption that legitimately should be monitored.
Coffee Is Not the Bad Guy Here
While coffee itself has been proven to pose no measurable health risk in moderate amounts, all the modifications added to coffee can be causes for concern. Most teens don’t drink coffee black. Their favorites are usually lattes and mochas, which are loaded with sugar.
Added sugar content comes from the ingredients of the drink:
- Whipped cream
- Energy drinks
- Processed foods
This excessive intake of sugar is far more damaging to a child’s health than caffeine. The list of health problems associated with sugar consumption is quite long. Too much sugar is linked to:
- Childhood obesity
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Insulin Resistance
- Nutritional Deficiency
- Cognitive Problems
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
Sugar-induced highs end in an energy crash which leaves adolescents and teens feeling sluggish, sleepy, and unable to concentrate. This affects their performance in school and sports, as well as their mood.
Better Choices Can Sweeten Your Coffee
Adolescents and teens should be encouraged to make better choices when choosing their coffee additives. Since your child’s health is your responsibility, you may be well-served to buy them an espresso machine to make their own specialty coffees.
Encourage them to use dark chocolate instead of the sweetened stuff. Promote the use of natural sweeteners instead of refined sugar or syrups. Try to provide low-fat whipped cream for their favorite drinks.
This also applies to other beverages besides coffee. Make sure that they have plenty of nutritious choices to replace the unhealthy products. Teach them what these harmful substances are doing to their bodies and encourage them to make healthy choices.
But sugar is not coffee’s only downside; the caffeine content brings its own set of issues.
Caffeine Is Not Completely Innocent
While caffeine is off the hook for stunting children’s growth, it can affect them negatively in other ways. Caffeine is known to interrupt the body’s natural regulation of the sleep cycle. Caffeine seems to notably shorten the length of REM sleep when the body gets the most rest.
Consuming too much caffeine or consuming caffeine less than six hours before bedtime may cause a disturbance in sleep patterns. This can lead to a sleep deficiency and an emotionally volatile teenager. The cycle is vicious:
- The teen drinks caffeine to help him stay awake in the daytime
- Caffeine interrupts the teen’s nighttime sleep patterns
- The teen feels sleepy the next day, so he downs more caffeine
Irritability and excessive daytime sleepiness combined with poor concentration may indicate a sleep disturbance related to caffeine intake. If this problem continues unaddressed, it can lead to severe sleep deprivation, which brings on a whole new set of problems.
Since proper development requires adequate sleep, it could be said that coffee hinders development. Not so much physical growth, but emotional and cognitive development may be impacted by caffeine-disrupted sleep patterns.
Coffee Is For Mornings Only
Caffeine’s impact on sleep means that it is still not a good idea to allow coffee consumption in children and teenagers. If you allow your teen to drink coffee, try to regulate how much and at what time of day.
In general, it is best if coffee is consumed early in the day so that it doesn’t interfere with sleep. Experts recommend that coffee consumption be ended at least six hours before bedtime. It takes 4-6 hours for the body to process half of the caffeine content you take in.
So, drinking a cup in the late afternoon doesn’t give the body enough time to process it before bedtime. The elevated caffeine content in the body blocks adenosine receptors, so you don’t feel sleepy. A feeling of wakefulness leads to later bedtimes, fewer hours of sleep, and increased fatigue.
The inability to fall asleep easily may cause or worsen anxiety. Poor-quality sleep affects overall health and quality of life. The fix may be as simple as foregoing that afternoon cup of coffee. Teach your teen the science behind the facts, and it will be easier for them to make better choices.
Coffee Does Have Benefits
Drinking coffee is not entirely taboo since there are some health benefits associated with coffee. Some studies indicate that coffee may help with:
- Burning fat
- Lowering the risk of dementia
- Lowering the risk of Parkinson’s disease
- Liver health
- Lowering the risk of stroke
- Lowering the risk of certain types of cancers
- Intake of certain nutrients including many B vitamins and Magnesium
- Increasing antioxidants in the body
Of course, these benefits are present in black coffee. Depending on what you add to your coffee, these benefits may be mitigated or decreased. And, as with all things in which humans indulge, coffee is best consumed in moderation.
When consumed in excess, the side effects of the caffeine may outweigh the benefits of the coffee. Most experts recommend no more than four (4) eight-ounce cups of coffee per day. This is the maximum amount of caffeine that is considered safe for normal, healthy adults.
For teens and pregnant or nursing women, that amount is reduced by about half. Of course, you could always switch to decaffeinated coffee so that caffeine isn’t a concern. But then, what is the point of drinking coffee without caffeine?
Coffee May Actually Extend Life
Instead of hampering growth, some studies indicate that coffee may increase longevity. Because of the antioxidants it contains, coffee is thought to strengthen the immune system and protect against many health concerns.
So, coffee shortens neither your bones nor your life.