Science, Now + Beyond

5 popular coffee myths totally debunked by science

If you're going to talk about people's health, at least have proof.

Growing up, people will tell you all kinds of made-up and exaggerated garbage about the sweet ambrosia that is coffee (okay, maybe now I’m exaggerating). But if you look at the facts, none of these travesties hold true… all the time.

1. Coffee will stunt your growth.

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My mom used this as justification to not let me drink coffee for years (18 to be exact). Although when you’re young it’s a good idea to intake less coffee than a 30-year-old because proportionally it can be a little much, it’s not actually going to make your growth plates close up. Despite this widespread idea, there’s no evidence that coffee actually stunts children’s growth. The closest thing in relevancy is a study that showed that adults drinking coffee can reduce the ability to absorb calcium, but that’s not by much. If you drink a single tablespoon of milk, you’ve conquered this coffee-induced deficiency your parents warned you about.

Although it might not be fair to blame our parents – the myth was started as a marketing strategy for a breakfast drink called Postum in the 1900s. As it turns out, the best way to defeat your enemies in business is to just lie (see: 2016 presidential race). So essentially, blame capitalism, y’all.

2. It’ll keep you awake at night.

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There’s some truth to this one – when choosing between a cup of warm milk and an espresso for your bedtime drink, I think the choice is clear, or at least it should be. The caffeine in a cup of coffee (for all intents and purposes, an 8 oz. cup of regular coffee) takes 4-7 hours for your system to process. The rule of thumb, then, is that if you plan on sleeping at 11pm, avoid coffee after 4.

However, if you know a lot of perpetually exhausted students like I do, it seems like some people just aren’t affected by late-night coffee anymore. If you’re a habitual coffee-drinker, you may have developed a certain level of caffeine tolerance that allows you to live this wild lifestyle. If so, you’re already here. If not, avoid getting there.

3. Coffee can sober you up.

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Unfortunately, this just isn’t true. The only real way to get sober is to wait it out – your system can only process things so fast. The tricky part here is that drinking coffee can make you act a little less drunk because of the illusion of alertness, but sweetie, you’re still drunk.

In fact, it’s better to avoid drinking coffee when you’re drunk just so you don’t convince yourself that you’re not too drunk to drive or something else risky. In short, don’t play yourself.

4. Coffee dehydrates you.

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I’ve personally fallen victim to this one – although coffee is a (very mild) diuretic, keep in mind that a good bit of the cup of coffee that you’re drinking is also water. Whatever you’re losing in all this extra pee you’re making (you hear the sarcasm, yeah?) is essentially replaced by the water in the coffee you just drank. Don’t get me wrong, though – drinking water is always a good idea and you should keeping doing it.

But no worries – balance maintained.

5. Coffee is addicting.

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Okay, a little true. But “addiction” has some very strong connotations that we might want to dissociate from, say, something as not-strong as coffee (unless of course you take your coffee black). The truth is, addiction has to do with a serious dependency of your brain on this drug. In this case, that’s caffeine.

Caffeine makes you alert by making you not-tired – it blocks a chemical receptor that brings on the effect of tiredness for that 4-6 hour sweetspot, and that’s the entire magic of it all. But whenever you mess with brain chemistry you will create that dependency. Caffeine withdrawal can be felt as soon as one day after your last intake of caffeine and it can get pretty uncomfortable, including a nasty headache most commonly as well as fatigue, muscle soreness, and irritability.

The good news is that compared to harder drugs & therefore harder addictions, caffeine isn’t all that bad in comparison. Most people don’t feel too awful for more than 7-12 days, which is probably shorter than the turnaround time for some of your Amazon orders in all honesty.

Friends, keep sippin’.

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