Every week, we’re bringing you a roundup of the latest health and wellness news to hit the wire. This week, we examine why genetics may play a role in making vegetables less appetizing for some people, how superbugs are sickening more people than we thought, and how early screen exposure may lead to insomnia and behavioral problems in children.

Why is it so hard for some people to eat vegetables?

Scientists think they may have found the answer in a gene that makes compounds in some vegetables such as broccoli, Brussel Sprouts and cabbage taste more bitter to some people.

According to this post in Healthline, these “supertasters” also may have a sensitivity to dark chocolate, coffee and beer, said the study’s co-author Jennifer L. Smith, Ph.D., a licensed registered nurse and postdoctoral fellow at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine.

Here’s how that works: Humans are born with two copies of a taste gene called TASR238. Those who inherit two copies of the variant called AVI are not sensitive to the bitterness in vegetables, and those who are, inherit one copy of AVI and one copy of a PAV variant.

Those with the PAV form of the gene were more than two and half times as likely to rank in the bottom half of vegetables consumed.

Researchers hope to use this information to issue recommendations on vegetables and spices that these individuals may better accept. It’s also important to remember, experts say, that taste buds decrease in sensitivity as we get older, making it easier for us to tolerate or even like foods that we didn’t when we were younger.

Superbugs are twice as big a problem as previously thought

About 3 million people are sickened each year, and 48,000 die from drug-resistant germs and fungi—twice as many illnesses and deaths as had been reported previously—according to new figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in The Washington Post.

To put those numbers in some perspective, on average, someone in the U.S. gets an antibiotic-resistant infection about every 10 seconds, and every 11 minutes someone dies from it.

Scientists are hoping these new numbers, based on a different national baseline, will help prioritize resources  to address the most serious of these threats—from long-recognized dangers such as Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) to carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE), also known as “nightmare bacteria,” which are resistant to nearly all antibiotics, kill up to half of all patients who get bloodstream infections from them, and are capable of transferring their antibiotic resistance to other bacteria, potentially making them untreatable, as well.

Overuse of antibiotics is the likely culprit behind the dramatic rise in these infections, with nearly a third of antibiotics prescribed not needed, according to a 2016 study, and prescribed for colds and viral illnesses.

While prevention efforts in hospitals decreased the number of superbug deaths by nearly 30 percent between 2012 and 2017, recent increases in drug-resistant gonorrhea infections and the growing ability of microbes to share their resistance genes with other kinds of bacteria have scientists alarmed.

You can find out more about the five biggest superbug threats here.

Early screen exposure linked to sleep, behavior issues in children

Smartphones, tablets and TVs are common in most households, but there’s good reason, experts say, to keep them away from the smallest members of the family.

A new study in Science Magazine by KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, together with the National University of Singapore, found that exposure to screens earlier than 18 months of age and the presence of multiple screen devices in the bedroom are associated with insomnia and emotional and behavioral difficulties such as hyperactivity, inattention and low mood in preschoolers with neurodevelopmental disorders.

They’re not alone. The authors of the study say that the results also are applicable to the larger population, aligning with existing evidence from studies done on typically developing children.

The majority of the toddlers studied exceeded the one-hour limit advised by the American Academy of Pediatrics for 2-year-olds, with 72 percent reporting elevated sleep problems and nearly 60 percent reporting elevated emotional and behavioral issues.

The academy discourages screen use (other than video chatting) in children younger than 18 months.

Photo credit: Keenan Loo, Unsplash