How Young is Too Young for Teens to Start Drinking Coffee?

Updated: Mar. 06, 2017

There are no official guidelines, but here’s what the experts have to say.

So it happened: Your teenager took a sip of your iced coffee and decided that she, too, needed a glass. With no official guidelines on age and coffee consumption to be found, it’s hard to know what to say. A hard “no,” or an “I’ll let it slide”?

Experts say it’s somewhere in the middle.

“As far as drinking ‘real’ coffee on a daily basis—espresso, cappuccinos, and lattes—I think it’s prudent to wait until the age of 18,” Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, told Healthline. “The research I’ve seen points to negative cardiovascular and neurologic effects, namely anxiety and insomnia, in children who consume caffeine.”

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Beyond that, Bellatti points to added sugars (think coffee drinks topped with chocolate sauce and whipped cream), as well as energy drinks, as a cause for concern. Just think: A 16 fluid ounce caramel frappuccino at Starbucks packs in nearly 64 grams of sugar. For comparison, a hot chocolate of the same size serves up 43 grams, and a plain coffee contains zero. Energy drinks, on the other hand, should be outright banned from your teen’s diet. (Find out how many calories you add on when you trick out your coffee.)

Bottom line: A plain coffee every now and then is relatively harmless. And those warnings you heard about coffee being able to “stunt growth”? Totally false.

MORE: 11 Things That Might Happen If You Switch from Coffee to Tea