A study suggests a cup a day could be good for your brain.

By Grace Elkus
Updated July 30, 2015
Woman drinking hot coffee
How long did it take you to down your last cappuccino? Next time, take a cue from the Japanese, whose formal tea ceremony can last four hours. Before taking a drink, participants raise their bowls in tribute to all the factors that came together to create that moment—from their ancestors to the farmers who grew the tea to the elders who taught them how to prepare it. Try this amended routine: Focus on the drink in front of you. Notice the smell, and relish the flavor. You’ll find it’s a wonderful daily exercise in mindfulness.Jennifer Anderson, Ph.D., an expert on Japanese tea rituals, is a lecturer in anthropology at San José State University, in San Jose, California.
| Credit: Tara Moore/Getty Images

If a cup of coffee is part of your morning routine, here's a scientific justification to stick with it. A new study from the Italian Longitudinal Study on Aging showed that consuming one to two cups of coffee per day might protect you from cognitive impairment and dementia. But increasing your coffee consumption—or not drinking it at all—could put you at risk. The findings are published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Over the span of three and a half years, researchers monitored the coffee consumption patterns of 1,445 cognitively-normal individuals, ages 65-84, to determine how coffee drinking habits affect cognitive function. They specifically considered the rate of incidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Those who increased their coffee consumption to more than one cup daily were about twice as likely to develop MCI than those who reduced their consumption to less than one cup per day, and about one and half times more likely than those whose habits remained consistent (no more and no less than one cup).

Interestingly, individuals who habitually consumed a moderate amount of coffee (one to two cups per day) had a lower incidence rate of MCI than those who never or rarely drank coffee, suggesting that a daily cup of coffee can have positive effects on the brain. This is good news for the 45 percent of U.S. adults who report drinking a cup or two of coffee on an average day, according to a recent Gallup poll.

“Therefore, moderate and regular coffee consumption may have neuroprotective effects also against MCI—confirming previous studies on the long-term protective effects of coffee, tea, or caffeine consumption and plasma levels of caffeine against cognitive decline and dementia,” one of the researchers Francesco Panza, MD, PhD, said in a statement.

This isn't the first time a study has linked a coffee a day to keeping the doctor away. Previous research has suggested that a cup of joe could decrease depression risk, help to prevent skin cancer, and boost your workout, among other benefits.