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Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?

Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on April 21, 2022

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages today. It contains caffeine — a mild stimulant that increases your energy. Many people believe that drinking too much caffeine can prevent you from growing taller. So, does coffee stunt your growth? Here's what the research says. 

Does Coffee Make You Shorter?

A person's height depends on a few different things. Genetics is the biggest factor in how tall someone grows to be as an adult. Your parents carry genes for things like height, weight, and metabolism. While some lifestyle factors, like childhood nutrition, can impact your height, there's no evidence that caffeinated drinks like coffee will stunt your growth. 

Genetics interact with lifestyle factors as you grow up. Certain things in your environment can influence the expression of your genes. However, evidence proving that caffeine in coffee directly stunts the growth of children, teenagers, or young adults has been insufficient. However, there may be an indirect link between caffeine and growth that causes this myth to circulate. 

How Are Caffeine and Growth Linked?

Can caffeine stunt your growth? There are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to answering this question. Specifically, in children, coffee and growth are somewhat linked, but not directly.

The caffeine in coffee drinks has a stimulating effect on your body and mind. This means it increases your alertness, focus, and heart rate. When young people consume too much caffeine before bedtime, their sleep is affected. The effects of sleep deprivation have more to do with stunted growth than coffee itself. 

Drinking caffeine in the hours before bedtime interrupts your sleep patterns. Sleep is especially important for children and teenagers to develop properly. Therefore, young people who drink caffeine up to six hours before bedtime are likely to have trouble sleeping. This prevents their body from producing the growth hormone that helps them grow taller.

Another reason many people believe coffee stunts your growth is that most children reach their final height in their teens. This is around the age young people begin to drink coffee and other caffeinated drinks. It's easy to draw the conclusion that coffee is what stunts young teenagers' growth when in reality, coffee and growth have little to do with each other.  

Things That Can Stunt Your Growth

If not caffeine, then what will stunt your growth? 

Poor nutrition. Poor nutrition starting as young as infancy (when a child is one year old) can severely hinder a child's growth. Whether nutrition problems come from an improper diet or frequent sicknesses that prevent nutrition absorption, they can have lifelong impacts into adulthood. A healthy diet is important for children to grow and thrive. 

Hormone disorders. Hormone problems can also stunt your growth during adolescence. Your endocrine system is what produces and regulates the hormones in your body. Certain endocrine disorders can result in young adults being shorter than their peers. 

Sleep. Sleep is incredibly important for developing children's bones, muscles, and other body tissues. If a young person regularly drinks caffeine sooner than six hours before they go to sleep, the lack of sleep can stunt their growth. Important growth-related hormones are released during sleep, so interruptions to sleep can affect a person's height later in life.

Poor sanitation. Poor sanitation is a possible cause of stunted growth, which mainly impacts children living in third-world countries. Improper cleaning procedures can allow harmful bacteria to spread. As a result, these children's bodies are spending more resources fighting off infection and not enough on growth. 

There are many possible causes of stunted growth in children, and these causes should be examined more closely. Childhood growth stunting can lead to many other health problems later in life. Stunted growth can't be reversed, so it is important to prevent this issue from happening in the first place. 

What Is a Healthy Amount of Coffee Each Day?

As long as you drink coffee in moderation, it won't necessarily affect your health in a negative way. The general guideline for caffeine intake is to stay under 400 milligrams per day — that's equal to about four cups of coffee. 

Drinking more than the recommended amount of coffee in a day can have mild effects on your health. Symptoms like irritability, heart palpitations, and trouble falling asleep are signs that you've had too much caffeine. Consuming too much caffeine over a long time can lead to insomnia — a sleep disorder that makes it difficult for you to fall asleep and stay asleep at night. 

So, it's best to not drink any form of caffeine at least six hours before bedtime — it'll help you sleep soundly throughout the night. Coffee is typically a morning beverage, so you don't have to give it up completely to avoid sleep problems

What Is the Safest Way to Drink Coffee?

While the myth that coffee can stunt your growth has been around for years, research has shown little evidence to support this claim — studies that have shown a link between coffee and shorter height may have more to do with sleep deprivation caused by caffeine, not the coffee itself. If you're still concerned, here are a few recommendations that could help you:   

Know your body's limits. It's safe to drink up to the recommended amount each day — four cups a day. So that it doesn't affect your sleep, don't drink coffee at least six hours before you plan to sleep. But if you're very sensitive to caffeine, you may need to not drink coffee several more hours before bedtime. 

Coffee in moderation won't hinder growth. It's ok for your child to drink coffee, but moderation is the key to making sure that caffeine in that coffee doesn't affect their growth. Coffee is a very safe drink — it's no more harmful than caffeinated sodas and other such beverages

Show Sources

SOURCES:

Connecticut Children's: "Does Coffee Stunt Your Growth?"

Environmental Health Perspectives: "Beyond Malnutrition: The Role of Sanitation in Stunted Growth."

Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine: "Caffeine Effects on Sleep Taken 0, 3, or 6 Hours before Going to Bed."

The Journal of Pediatrics: "Physiology of Growth Hormone Secretion During Sleep."

MedlinePlus: "Caffeine."

Nemours Teens Health: "Growth Problems."

Princeton University Health Services: "Caffeine."

Verywell Health: "Drinking Coffee and Stunted Growth in Children and Teens."

World Health Organization: "Stunting in a nutshell."

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