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What is Wrong with America’s Food? Comedian Atsuko Okatsuka’s Viral Joke Sparks a National Conversation (VIDEO)

  Stand-up comedian Atsuko Okatsuka, was the second Asian American Woman to have a stand up special on HBO, recently ignited a viral discuss...

 Stand-up comedian Atsuko Okatsuka, was the second Asian American Woman to have a stand up special on HBO, recently ignited a viral discussion with her joke about dietary allergies and intolerances. She has now unintentionally shone a light on a pervasive issue: the questionable state of American food.

During her act, Okatsuka humorously recounted her grandmother’s newfound gluten intolerance, expressing her disbelief that such sensitivities were affecting her immigrant family.

My grandma can’t eat gluten anymore. And I was shocked because I didn’t know. Did you know? Did you know that immigrants can get this?” she joked.

“No, I really thought that this was something that only happened to the white people… Because all my white friends, every single day, there’s a new thing they can’t eat anymore. It’s weird,” she added.



The punchline, rooted in the observation that dietary issues such as gluten intolerance seemed to be predominantly a ‘white’ problem, had people not just laughing but thinking and sharing their experiences on social media.

One user stated, “I am lactose intolerant and gluten intolerant until I leave the US. I can eat anything in other countries just fine.. it’s insane.” This comment opened the floodgates, with numerous others sharing anecdotes of their dietary woes disappearing abroad but reemerging upon returning to the States.

Another user replied, “Thats me in China. Everything is fine outside but come back and I die trying milk.”

Another user commented on this joke, he wrote: “I think it’s how food is processed in the US. I know folks who have severe gluten sensitivities but can eat bread and pasta in Europe in moderation with no problems. Another example is a friend of mine who loved a dish that has a sauce that is peanut based, no issue eating it back in the Philippines but when she made the same dish in US, she had hives and her eyes got all swollen right after ingesting a small portion of it.”

Another user wrote, “Yeah, I uses to think peanut allergy was…. and then I gave birth to a child who is severely allergic to tree nuts. Funny enough, he helps dad in his macadamia nuts and no reaction but fly back west, just walking by pistachios and he is already reacting.”

Another one shared her experience, saying, “Honestly it’s probably just American food. I couldn’t eat gluten in the US, but I had no issues when I was overseas.”

Another one shared her thoughts, stating, “Our food in the US is made to make us sick thats why. Idc who wants to argue it, this country makes us sick to make more money for big Pharma and make you reliant on the government. If you’re sick you always pay for meds/treatments or you just die. We allow more chemicals in our foods than anywhere else, as many of these chemicals are banned in many countries bc they are absolutely toxic for us to eat, they pump obscene and unnecessary amounts of sugar into things to make us addicted which is why everyone is getting more overweight and diabetes… Same with hair and skin products and whats in them, and the chemicals in our containers/dishes/cups for foods and liquids.. this place is poisoning and dumbing down it’s people bc that makes them more easy to control, as they must “rely” on their country to get the help they need.. they want us to forget we are completely capable of being self sufficient by making people lazy in life from over working themselves for a small return, and adding distractions everywhere on purpose to make you blind to the fact that your life is mostly work for wages that don’t align with a healthy lifestyle.. this country is run by cheaters. So tbh it’s not shocking to hear more people are growing ill after living and eating here. This place is all a mirage of paradise.”

These personal accounts are underpinned by recent research from Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute, which found that a staggering 73 percent of the United States food supply is considered ultra-processed.

This research, which aims to provide a clearer picture of the American diet, suggests that ultra-processed foods are not only prevalent but also significantly cheaper than their less processed counterparts.

The findings have raised alarms about the nutritional value of the American diet, with senior research scientist Giulia Menichetti expressing surprise at the extent to which highly processed foods are mistakenly considered healthy.

“It surprised me how a considerable amount of highly processed food is mistakenly considered healthy because the public narrative still focuses on one nutrient at a time, instead of evaluating food as a whole,” Menichetti tells Food Tank.

Food Tank reported:

Recent research from Northeastern University’s Network Science Institute indicates that 73 percent of the United States food supply is ultra-processed. Based on these findings, the research team built a database of 50,000 foods that helps consumers identify ultra-processed products and find healthier alternatives.

Building off research published in Nature Food, the researchers worked to predict the degree of food processing, outlined in a paper currently under review. A second paper, also under review, explores the prevalence of processed food. Using their findings, the researchers constructed a database containing over 50,000 food items across Walmart, Target, and Whole Foods Market. The database indicates that 73 percent of the U.S. food supply is ultra-processed and suggests that ultra-processed foods are 52 percent cheaper than less processed alternatives, on average.

To catalog the degree of processing of food items in the U.S. food supply, the research team created the publicly available TrueFood database. TrueFood captures and compares the degree of processing of thousands of foods. Each food item receives a score, out of 100, based on hidden ingredients and additives.

Menichetti and her team are excited to advance their promising research. She tells Food Tank, “According to my preliminary studies, while these concepts still lack precise quantification, they appear to be the leading factor in explaining how current ultra-processed food negatively affects our health. We need to come up with a mathematical definition of ‘whole food’ versus ‘disrupted food’.”

The study defines ultra-processed foods according to the NOVA Food classification system. These foods are hyper-palatable “industrial formulations” that stray from their organic origins. Most processed foods are derived from substances such as oils, fats, sugar, starch or are synthesized from flavor enhancers, colors, and other additives. Examples of ultra-processed foods include ice cream, candy, soda, chips—foods that are highly caloric but offer little nutritional value.

Nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fat, protein, and fiber, and a list of ingredients appear on nutrition labels, but these categories do not reveal the entirety of a food’s chemical composition. Menichetti’s research seeks to map out the entire web of chemical compounds found in food. In better understanding food, researchers can identify how certain foods can negatively impact health.

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