Does Coffee Make You Shorter? Myth Or Truth?
The world over coffee is enjoyed as a way to wake people up and with a kick, to fight physical fatigue and toughen themselves mentally to plow forwards into the day ahead!
However, coffee is not all flowers and roses, and with one of its primary components being caffeine, which is classed as a 'drug' that stimulates the nervous system, sometimes a negative imprint is attached to it, and poor olé coffee ends up taking the blame for crimes it didn't commit!
A fine example of this is the old wives' tale that coffee makes you shorter, which has been passed down for generations and is still a popular misconception of the new age, often popping up on social media and circulated around. The origin of this old age idea is unknown, but there is some evidence to show that coffee marginally blocks the absorption of calcium in the bones, however, this is far from significant enough to stunt growth.
The Truth of The Matter
There is a lack of scientific evidence to suggest that coffee will make you shorter. It is not linked to weakened bones or blocking absorption of vital nutrients essential for growth. However, an excess of anything is not healthy, and there are drinking guidelines that should be adhered to in order to maintain peak health.
What is a Healthy Consumption?
A healthy amount of coffee intake per day lays at 100mg or 1 cup for those aged 12-18 and 1-4cups, or 400mg a day for adults (1).
It is not advisable to drink coffee before 2 pm or after 7 hours before sleep.
So, what happens if we drink over the recommended guidelines? This article examines the effects of coffee consumption with regard to growth.
Can Caffeine in Coffee Stimulate Growth Hormone?
There is no evidence to suggest that drinking coffee will stimulate growth hormone, or that it will make you taller.
When Combined With Exercise?
Yet with regards to drinking coffee and exercising to release growth hormone, one study showed that when caffeine was ingested 1 hour prior, it may lessen the response of GH to a single bout of resistance exercise.
Although this could also be due to additional factors, so it remains unclear (2). There is also no clear evidence to support the positive effect of caffeine on GH secretion.
Coffee can heighten your exercise performance, though. If you are drinking coffee and exercising it is best performed in the mornings, as this is when exercise is most effective.
Does Caffeine Stunt Your Growth?
Height is around 80% due to genetics and the other 20% is down to environmental factors, such as sleep, nutrition, and exercise.
Fortunately, Science has proven that drinking coffee does not stunt your growth and that the caffeine in coffee does not stunt your growth.
However, there are other factors that it can determine.
Caffeine has been thought of as a risk factor to developing osteoporosis (fragile bones), which can be attributed to the lessening of bone mineral content (BMD), and while there is some evidence that excess coffee intake is linked to this, it is questionable, as other factors are often linked to high coffee consumption, such as a lack of calcium intake.
Bone Mass Density
On a positive note, moderate coffee drinking has been shown to have positive effects on bone mineral density. One study found that 'moderate coffee consumption was significantly associated with increased BMD among 992 Chinese men', and can help to counter osteoporosis. (3).
However, another study showed that compared to drinking 1 cup of coffee a day, drinking 4 or more cups proved to decrease BMD and was associated with increased osteoporosis risk between 31,527 Swedish women aged 40-70 (3). It is important to note that the subjects also had a low calcium consumption. Also, for men, 4 or more cups per day decreased femoral BMD compared with less coffee consumption.
So it remains unclear if coffee consumption can affect the risk it poses to bone health. But, there is evidence that those who intake high levels of caffeine are also likely to intake lower levels of calcium, and a deficiency of calcium can lead to skeletal fragility (4).
A Breastfed Baby's Growth
Caffeine will not stunt the growth of a breastfed baby, and it is in fact used by some healthcare providers as a treatment for apnea for infants, and other issues, but it is important to remember that these are special circumstances. Given that healthcare providers often put great emphasis on a baby's growth, it would be widely known if caffeine also stunted this.
Yet, although it won't stunt growth, the other effects still come into play. It can cause irritability, fussiness, and wakefulness, so nap cycles may change due to caffeine intake.
Given the fragility of a baby's health, unless there is a special cause for the use of caffeine it is sensible to not drink over the recommended guidelines, or better still cut it out completely and drink decaffeinated drinks until breastfeeding has finished.
A Child's Growth
If you are a parent who is introducing coffee to your child between the ages of 1-12, then it is not advisable. Coffee is a stimulant that may affect their quality of sleep, and as a child, this is incredibly important for growth and wellbeing. It can also cause changes in mood and there is no reason to give them something which they are most likely unaware of in the first place.
For those between 12-18, guidelines suggest that 100 mg of coffee per day is the limit for wellbeing, which translates to 1 cup of brewed coffee. This will not directly affect growth.
The long-term effects that coffee could have on brain growth are still relatively unknown and is not known to stunt brain growth.
However, caffeine in coffee is a stimulant that affects the brain as it has been shown to disrupt sleep by blocking adenosine receptors (5). If not consumed at the recommended time of day (7 hours before sleep), for a developing mind a disrupted sleep can affect concentration and the ability to absorb information. While it will not affect brain growth, it can indirectly affect brain performance.
Caffeine is in Other Drinks Too
If you are intaking the correct amount of coffee that is great, but you should also know that caffeinated soda, tea, or energy drinks contain a good amount of caffeine, and if you drink these alongside your coffee you may want to cut back. Too much intake of this can cause headaches anxiety, down moods, trouble concentrating, crankiness amongst other things.
Indirect Effects of Coffee On Growth
Sleeping is a key component of GH release, and if you consume coffee after 7 hours before sleeping then it may interrupt your sleep patterns. The indirect effects of caffeine consumption may lead to less growth hormone being produced, which may affect growth or bodily regulation.
Diet and Exercise
Other things include a lifestyle of binging on nutrient-deficient foods and excessive alcohol or sugar intake.
If you are drinking far more than the recommended daily dose of coffee then it is quite possible that you are also having low-quality nutrition and not exercising enough. These are all factors that can stunt growth, so indirectly coffee may be partly due to the reason you did not reach your potential height.
Stay to the recommended guidelines for diet, sleep, and exercise and you can rest assured coffee is not the culprit for your lack of height.
Science has proven that coffee does not make you shorter, but the myth passed down for generations is likely to stay around for a while.
However, the indirect effects of excessive coffee consumption can have an effect on health.
For example, If you drink coffee regularly, either 7 hours before sleep, or over the recommended daily dose for your age range, then your body may not be receiving the right amount of vitamins and minerals essential for bone health and overall wellbeing. This includes calcium intake, which is essential for bone health.
So, if you are concerned that coffee stunts your growth, then you should be more concerned about your diet, exercise, and sleeping patterns. In other words - the next time someone tells you that coffee stunts growth you can confidently say 'no it doesn't.