Can Coffee Stunt Your Growth?

Coffee is one of the most popular energy drink preferred by people across the globe. All thanks to its energising effect, taste and aroma, people of all age groups are tempted to indulge in it. 

It will be interesting to note that in US, people in the age group of 18-65 years have coffee as their most preferred drink followed by other caffeinated drinks such as tea and soda. If we talk about the teens in US, second most consumed beverage after energy drinks is coffee. 

Coffee can stunt or hinder the growth of teens is a notion at many places in the world. In the following article we will do fact based analysis to conclude whether it is right notion or a misconception. 

Can coffee really affect the growth of bones and height in teens?

Over the years teenagers have been warned against drinking coffee as it may negatively impact their growth. But there is no evidence based study to prove this notion.

If we look at it objectively, main reason for warning teens against drinking coffee is presence of caffeine as main ingredient in the coffee. Caffeine has been found to reduce calcium absorption in the body. Apart from that in elderly people it is also found to increase in urinary calcium loss. Amount of urinary calcium loss by a cup of caffeine cannot be replenished in 24 hours. Reduction in calcium absorption and increase in urinary calcium loss is associated with decreased bone density, stunted bone growth and thus reduced height in adolescents. 

However, According to a research done with 81 women of the age group 12-18 years, no significance difference was found in bone density of women drinking coffee regularly and women not at all drinking coffee. Experts believe that percent of calcium absorption reduction due to consumption of caffeine in teenagers is insignificant and can be easily counter balanced by adding one or two tablespoons of extra milk in the coffee. If an adolescent increases its intake of calcium rich dairy products such as yogurt, cheese, cottage cheese and milk along with optimum amount of vitamin D which aids in calcium absorption, effect of caffeine on the bone health of the person can be nullified. 

Hence we can conclude that drinking coffee do not have any significant effect on stunting the bone growth or height of a teenager. 

Negative impact of coffee on the health of teens

Though we have successfully established the fact that coffee do not have any significant impact on the bone growth and height of teens, but it can definitely cause other health issues in them. You cannot allow your teenager kid to consume coffee above the recommended levels. 

Disrupted sleep patterns

Caffeine present in coffee makes a person alert and awake hence disrupts sleep pattern of a person. As compared to adults, caffeine stays longer in the body of young people. It takes more time to wear off the effect of caffeine in adolescents. 

According to a study including 191 people of age 12-18 years taking caffeine ranging from 0-800 mg per day, kids taking higher amount of caffeine per day had more disturbed sleep as compared to kids taking less amount of caffeine. They were mostly awake at night and felt sleepy and tired in day. This altered sleeping pattern affected their academic performance. It also lead to increased intake of high sugar food in such children and can be deduced as major cause of childhood obesity. 

Disturbed sleep, altered sleep pattern, childhood obesity can have an indirect impact on the growth of the teens. 

High sugar intake

Most of the beverages made using coffee usually have high sugar content in the form of sugar syrup, whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Unlike natural food containing high sugar, added sugar do not have fibre and other nutrients to minimise the effect of sugar in it. Thus added sugar leads to immediate spike in blood sugar level. 

According to American Heart Association, a teenager should not consume more than 25 mg of added sugar while these sugary caffeinated sinks have as high as 66 mg of added sugar in them. Such high sugar level and spike in blood sugar level can pose risk of heart disease in children, juvenile diabetes and obesity.

Hence we can conclude that teenagers taking high amount of coffee and other caffeinated drink per day have disturbed sleep, high craving for sugary food and can suffer from problems such as poor performance, obesity, fatigue, heart trouble and diabetes. 

Permitted caffeine limit for children and young adults

According to American Academy of Paediatrics permissible quantity of caffeine in young adults of age 12-18 years is 100 mg/day. 

However Health Canada has bifurcated the recommended limits in several age groups. 

  • 4-6 years : 45 mg/day
  • 7-9 years : 62.5 mg/day
  • 10-12 years : 85 mg/day
  • 12-18 years : 2.5 mg/per kg body weight/day

Both US food and drug administration and Health Canada recommends 300 mg/day coffee intake to pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and women who are trying to conceive a baby. It is equal to 2 to 3 cups of coffee a day. Caffeine intake higher than this can lead to miscarriage and low birth weight in infants. 

Benefits of drinking coffee

Coffee have several substances which have been found to have health benefits on a person. 

  1. Caffeine: Caffeine found in coffee have stimulating effect and is known to improve exercise performance. It is also associated with lowering the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. 
  2. Chlorogenic acid: Chlorogenic acid is a natural antioxidant present in coffee. It is known to protect the body cells and prevent cell damage. It also plays a crucial role in weight management. 
  3. Diterpenes: Diterpenes present in coffee have antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Studies also suggest that it has anti-cancer properties. 
  4. Trigonelline: Trigonelline present in coffee is known to have positive effect on lowering the blood sugar level and also improve nerve damage caused by uncontrolled diabetes.     

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