Of all the things that a busy parent would want to learn about coffee, from quantity to ideal bean roast, there is one question that always seems to rise back to the top.
"Should I let my kid drink coffee?”
Now that’s a tough question for researchers too.
Testing children with a substance that could potentially affect their development isn’t exactly easy, and of course it shouldn’t be.
But this leaves many questions unanswered, like “Would it be bad for my kid even though it is good for me?”, “Is caffeine dangerous for them?” or “Is decaf any better?”
Thankfully we are not under complete darkness when it comes to this topic, so let’s see what we know so far!
Coffee’s Benefits in General
Coffee, in general, offers many great health benefits when consumed in moderate amounts. That’s true for both caffeinated and decaf.
We know that many studies have linked its effects with combatting diseases like type 2 diabetes, several kinds of cancer as well as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.
On top of that, we know that it is a rich source of antioxidants and micronutrients for your system despite its stimulating effect.
One might say, that if all those things have been tested and we already know how much good coffee can do, wouldn’t it be great for your child as well?
And this is exactly where the explored territory ends!
We have no indicator of how caffeinated coffee could impact your child’s growth in the long term.
Caffeine and Kids
We can’t really discuss coffee if we don’t examine the most important reason why people drink it in the first place. The almost immediate, energizing effect it has! Which is caused mainly by caffeine.
Let’s face it. The real reason we are skeptical about whether to let our kids have a cup is that we fear what exposure and habitual intake could do to their development.
The issue is that caffeine is not a nutrient that our body requires. It is a stimulator of the nervous system and we should not forget that.
Having said that, pediatricians have a general rule that the younger the child the more it should avoid having it in their diet, regardless of its source.
That means, watch out for sodas, colas, and energy drinks as well because they usually contain very large amounts.
For the special case of teenagers, a maximum of 100mg (around a cup) per 50kg is considered safe.
Despite not knowing how coffee could impact your child’s health in the long run we do know about its side effects if consumed in large quantities in a short period of time.
Large quantities in this case, are much lower than that of an average adult, as the dosage is defined by the kid’s body weight and age.
In that case, even a small amount (1 cup) could affect your child’s sleep, mood, and digestion in a very bad way.
See, one cup might not be that much harm at first sight, but if your 10-year-old son/daughter drinks one in the afternoon, they probably won’t be able to sleep tonight. (Probably they won’t let you sleep either, but let’s be optimistic)
Now, even if coffee on its own is not that bad for your kid’s growth, sleep deprivation is. And much worse than most people think since healthy development relies heavily on regulated rest.
Decaffeinated Coffee and Children
So if the problem lies with caffeine, then decaffeinated coffee should be of no harm, right?
Well, this is a grey area as well according to scientists.
On the one hand, coffee’s chemical structure, deprived of caffeine seems to have no negative effects on your child’s development. Which makes it much less risky than caffeinated coffee.
On the other hand, most kids would prefer a lot of additives in their “coffee” to improve the otherwise bitter taste, such as sugar and whipped cream.
That scenario however leaves us with a destabilized dietary plan as a beverage like that, scores very high in caloric density, and very low in nutritional value.
Assuming your kid prefers a black, decaffeinated cup, which is the healthiest of options, theoretically, it should be alright but as mentioned earlier, more research is required.
Does coffee stunt your kid’s growth?
One of the most widespread myths associated with coffee is that it can stunt your child’s growth.
This misconception seems to have occurred after several studies that took place a few decades ago. In those studies, the participants were coffee drinkers and were found to have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Scientists said that this was potentially due to caffeine increasing calcium exertion and that lack of calcium contributes to osteoporosis.
Later studies, however, found that a) Caffeine’s impact on our body’s calcium amount is very small and b) The studied group’s diet didn’t contain enough calcium and vitamin D.
That pretty much shattered the connection between coffee and stunt growth.
So, if you are afraid of coffee making your child shorter and frail, it has already been ruled out by scientists.
You may want to keep a couple more calcium sources in their diet though, just to be on the safe side.
Given all the processes that take place through your child’s development, it’s not a simple task to identify the effects of coffee in the long term.
Of course, I can’t forget all the babyccinos (frothed milk with some chocolate or cinnamon powder sprinkled on top) I made to quench the children’s desire either.
To summarize everything, you probably want to make sure your child doesn’t have to go through all the negative short-term symptoms or the brain development maybes about which research is inconclusive up to now.
Stick to healthy alternatives like fresh juice, cocoa, or decaf, and well… maybe an occasional sip or two if they manage to win you over…
This post was first published in 2021 but it was updated in 2022 just for you.