Fact Or Fiction: Does Coffee Actually Stunt Your Growth?

If you ever asked for coffee as a kid you were probably told no, followed by one of your parents insisting that it would stunt your growth. Most people have heard this claim and it's become widely believed. However, few people know where it started from or, more importantly, if it's true.

Harvard Medical hangs the claim's origins on a series of studies that linked caffeine to reduced calcium absorption. Over time, the idea became that coffee stunts your growth, likely because of another myth: that coffee may cause osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is defined by the National Institute on Aging as "a disease that weakens bones to the point where they break easily." The disease has no visible symptoms and is usually only found through routine checkups or after a bone breaks. This bone weakness is caused by a loss of bone density, which has led people to mistakenly believe this could chop an inch or two off a person's height. Some people have tried to link this loss to caffeine intake. 

But does caffeine actually cause osteoporosis? Both Harvard and American Bone Health say no.

The roots of the coffee and height myth

"There is no scientifically valid evidence to suggest that coffee can stunt a person's growth."

That is Harvard's official stance on the myth that coffee can stunt your growth. Their write-up on the topic goes on to address the studies that kick-started the myth in the first place. In these studies, researchers thought they had found evidence indicating that people who regularly consumed caffeine had trouble absorbing calcium.

When other researchers tried to replicate the results, they couldn't. Reviews of the original studies found that the people with low calcium levels ate "substantially less calcium" than is recommended. The issue wasn't the coffee. It was the rest of what the people were — or were not — eating.

Harvard also points out that osteoporosis doesn't actually cause height loss. This is another myth. As the article expressly points out, you can't lose height once you have it unless you start to suffer a spine curvature. As of right now, there have yet to be accusations of coffee having that drastic of an effect.

Caffeine has a range of effects. Some are good, like how caffeine can boost your workout, while others are a little less desirable, like that racing feeling in your chest. But one thing is for certain. Caffeine does not stunt your growth.