In the Dr. Donohue medical advice column one day this week, a letter writer inquired if it were safe for her 12-year-old granddaughter to start drinking coffee.
DD’s response, in a nutshell, was that one cup of coffee wouldn’t hurt a 12-year-old.
What about two or three, you may be wondering? Well, the doc didn’t get into that.
Unlike Donohue, I am not a physician, but here’s what I can say about a beverage I’ve been drinking regularly for about four decades (I’ll be 49 this August, btw, so you still have time to get those cards and presents in the mail):
My mom grew up on a Minnesota dairy during the Depression, and drinking coffee was just sort of something everyone did in her family — an old line was it helped farm kids, and there were 10 of them in her family, stay awake to do their chores.
Since it was no big deal for children to have coffee in her household growing up, neither was it in the household she ran for me and my four older siblings; consequently, I picked up the habit around age 7.
It started with dunking things like chocolate chip cookies into it, and also sugar cubes, and later cinnamon toast. But before all that long, I was just drinking it — not a ton, just a cup or maybe a little more at a time, usually at breakfast. Anyway, before the time I was an adolescent, I was a regular coffee drinker, and it’s a habit I’ve never let go of.
It’s kind of funny that even as I was allowed to drink it, I can remember that old wives’ tale of “it stunts your growth” wafting around me with some frequency. I guess I just wasn’t worried about it, and while I didn’t get real big — 5-7 and 150 pounds — I attribute that much more to genetics than to Folger’s.
For the first third of my coffee career, I added a scoop of non-dairy creamer to every cup, but then I started just drinking it black when I decided CoffeeMate was simply too much trouble (and yes, that does sound like a First World problem, for sure).
My unofficial, self-imposed daily limit is four cups — a couple in the morning, one after lunch, maybe one mid-afternoon — but I will allow myself to go over that if I feel like doing so for any reason. Doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.
When I worked days and got up early, I typically would not have coffee after about 5 p.m. so as not to hinder my sleeping Now that I work a lot of nights, I’ll drink it as late as 10.
Is coffee/caffeine bad for you? In moderation, I say no.
If there were some compelling reason for me to stop drinking it, I would; but there’s not, so I won’t.
I will, however, allow that after all these years, I do have some sort of addiction going on, albeit a tame one. I would have an unpleasant time working at my desk all morning without any coffee — I’d develop a headache and just kind of feel out of sorts — but if I’m doing something like manual labor or riding my motorcycle, it’s not hard to go for most or all of the day without coffee, Coke or any other caffeinated product.
I guess in conclusion, I’m concurring with Dr. Donohue. One cup of coffee will not hurt a 12-year-old, despite a lingering societal belief that coffee is a grown-up beverage.
So drink up, kids, and I would recommend the inexpensive stuff like I buy. There’s nothing wrong with coffee, but there’s a lot wrong with a $4 cup of coffee. It’s just not that valuable.