Does Coffee Really Stunt Your Growth?

There are many reasons to be thankful for coffee. It can wake you up with a jolt, kick your backside into gear, and turbocharge your morning, and when prepared with a few amazing extras, it can make for a pretty amazing beverage.

But there is one thing that coffee gets a bad rap for — stunting growth, of children specifically.

While there doesn't seem to be any studies on the long-term effects of coffee on children, there are numerous studies on the impact of caffeine on children and growth, which came up with... nothing — no link between caffeine and growth. And even though studies have found that caffeine keeps an adult from absorbing a small amount of calcium (which could be where this urban myth comes from), Healthline says the impact of this can be nullified by adding one or two tablespoons of milk for every six ounces of coffee you drink, which is already present in some of our favorites from Starbucks, such as lattes, mochas, and cappuccinos.

Why do parents think coffee stunts their children's growth?

Mark Pendergrast, author of Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World, says there is some historical precedent for coffee's questionable reputation. "From the very beginning of people drinking coffee, there have been concerns that it was bad for you, for one reason or another," he tells Smithsonian. He says a ban on coffee for health reasons was even imposed in Mecca during the 1500s, and by King Charles in 1675.

Smithsonian says we may have C.W. Post (that C.W. Post — the breakfast cereal manufacturer) to thank for the modern-day myth about coffee and growth. One of C.W. Post's most successful products was a grain-based, caffeine-free breakfast drink named Postum, which made a name for itself in the 1960s. Pendergrast says, "Postum made C.W. Post a fortune, and he became a millionaire from vilifying coffee, and saying how horrible it was for you. Postum advertisers had all kinds of pseudoscientific reasons that you should stay away from coffee." 

Advertising claimed coffee affected internal organs like the kidney, heart, and stomach, and that it was a nerve poison. The anti-coffee rhetoric continued even after C.W. Post died in 1914, making its way into popular folklore. But with recent scientific studies claiming there are significant health benefits associated with drinking coffee, we think coffee is enjoying the last laugh.