Does Coffee Really Stunt Kids’ Growth?


Modern concerns about coffee’[s] health effects in the U.S. can be traced to C.W. Post, an 1800s-era food manufacturer most well known for pioneering the field of breakfast cereal. He also invented a grain-based breakfast beverage called Postum, advertised as a caffeine-free coffee alternative, that was popular through the 1960s (and is still in production). … Even after Post died in 1914, his company’s ads continued their attack on coffee, highlighting its effects on youth in particular and marketing Postum as a kid-friendly hot beverage. Postum’s ads claimed that that coffee should never, under any circumstances, be served to children, for a number of reasons—it made them sluggish, irritable and sleepless, it robbed them of “rosy cheeks and sparkling eyes,” it led to failing grades and … “it hampers proper development and growth.” Over time, it seems, the belief that coffee is unfit for children—and, specifically, that it stops them from growing—slipped into the country’s cultural consciousness and took root, despite a total lack of scientific evidence.

Yet the appeal of Postum has persisted for some:

Postum remained America’s favorite coffee substitute late into the century, making [up] 87 percent of the market as of 1995. The problem was that, by then, the market was “moribund,” as The New York Times put it, totaling just $7.5 million a year. It was, after all, the dawn of the Starbucks era. … Kraft Foods pulled Postum from shelves entirely in 2007, but reintroduced it last year. According to Utah’s Deseret News, the drink is still a breakfast staple in Mormon households, which are forbidden, of course, from drinking coffee.