Sure, a cup of coffee in the morning can add a little pep to your step. But it might very well do much more than that, according to a growing body of research into the potential health benefits of moderate java consumption. Most intriguing? The prospect that coffee could help stave off dementia.

Several studies, on both animals and people, indicate that caffeine alters the biochemical environment of our brains in a manner that actually thwarts neurodegeneration. In an overview of that research, The New York Times points out one particularly fascinating 2012 study on adults with early signs of Alzheimer's disease: after following that group for several years, researchers found that those with three cups' worth of caffeine circulating in their bloodstreams were significantly less likely to have developed the illness. Of course, the findings are by no means definitive — nor do they determine whether coffee itself is key, or whether any caffeine does the trick. Still, for those looking to justify an $11,000 coffee pot, preventing dementia is a pretty good way to do it.