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Web-only Exclusives
November 30, 2000

From Our Correspondent: Hirohito and the War
A conversation with biographer Herbert Bix

From Our Correspondent: A Rough Road Ahead
Bad news for the Philippines - and some others

From Our Correspondent: Making Enemies
Indonesia needs friends. So why is it picking fights?

Asiaweek Time Asia Now Asiaweek story

OCTOBER 22, 1999 VOL. 25 NO. 42

Bring the Barbells, Granny
Why older people could do with extra weights
By DOMINIC FAULDER

also:
Kiss Off: fighting the Epstein-Barr virus
Fine Brew: more benefits of drinking tea

    ALSO IN ASIAWEEK
Television: Why Are You So Strange?
A show provides Japanese viewers with a crash course in what foreigners think about them and their ways

People: Glamor Girl in Trouble
An Anwar accuser falls on hard times

Books: Children of the Killing Fields
A timely look behind Khmer Rouge terror

Newsmakers
French accusations fly in Cambodia

Health
Why older people benefit from some extra weight

In Chinese communities, especially, a common suggestion to the elderly is to say "You've earned your rest. Take a load off." Well-meaning friends and family often urge them to slow down, and most people expect to do just that as they get older - perhaps far more than is good for their health. There's no denying physical functions decline with age. But, increasingly, scientists are finding that a little weight training - and regular exercise - can help prevent some disabilities associated with age. Seniors up to 79 years may benefit from a turn with a set of light barbells, for instance. Older people tend to suffer falls as they lose muscle strength and balance. A report in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society now suggests that resistance training can help reduce the risk of falls and bone fractures - even when it's just once a week. Exercising with weights is a "safe and effective" way to develop strength in people over 65, and can help them maintain an independent lifestyle, writes the team from a California veterans' medical center. The study backs findings by other U.S. scientists, who warned that physical inactivity can hasten age-related decline. Couch potatos rapidly lose muscle, flexibility, balance and endurance. Researchers at the University of Texas argue that older people can slow the aging process through regular exercise. As evidence, they cite a 12-week scheme using weights that helped women 64 and above to double their leg strength and a walking program that reversed decades of declining lung function in a group in their seventies. The idea, of course, is to be active through the years. And the best time to start is now.  

Kiss Off
Because infections can be spread through saliva, glandular fever is sometimes called the kissing disease. Physicians have yet to find a drug to curb the Epstein-Barr virus, which can cause swollen tonsils, enlarged neck glands and fever. But Japanese and U.S. researchers reckon they have worked out how the bug multiplies in the body. The discovery may help identify ways to relieve the symptoms and to understand how the virus is involved in malignancy. While fever patients usually recover after a period of rest, the Epstein-Barr virus is also linked to several cancers, including those of the stomach and the lymphatic system. In southern China, where many are infected with the bug, scientists have found high rates of a rare form of cancer of the nose and throat. Writing in the journal Science, researchers suggest the answer lies with a viral protein called LMP1. This mimics a crucial molecule within the B-cells that help the body fight off viral invasions, interfering with our defense mechanism. Although the body usually manages to keep the virus in check, a reactivated bug seems to trigger lymphoma in people with weakened immune systems. Those who have undergone organ transplants are believed to be especially at risk.  

Fine Brew
Does a cuppa confer protection against arteriosclerosis or are tea-drinkers just more likely to have healthier lifestyles? Besides anti-cancer properties, tea is now associated with lower cholesterol build-up. A Dutch study which tracked the diet of 3,400 people over two years found that those who drank one to two cups a day were 46% less likely to develop severely blocked arteries. (None of the subjects showed signs of heart and related diseases at the start of the survey.) With four mugs, the risk fell by as much as 69%. While the researchers note that tea-drinkers tend to be leaner and smoke less, they argue that their data still suggest tea protects against severe arteriosclerosis, especially in women. Tea contains high levels of anti-oxidant flavanoids, which are believed to prevent plaque deposits on artery walls.

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