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The Contents of a Taco Bell "Volcano Box"

The "Volcano Box" combo meal comes with a Volcano Taco, a Volcano Burrito, a regular Taco, and Cinnamon Twists. Without the drink, that comes to almost 1,400 calories, 76 grams of fat, and 133 grams of carbohydrate. I tend to focus on the carbohydrate, because I think of the poor, innocent pancreas of a teenager that has to react to nearly 200 grams of carbs (meal plus a jumbo drink), day in and day out.

This dutiful pancreas pumps out mega-doses of insulin, and the kid's body hums along just fine.

I imagine, though, that after years of consuming Volcano Meals, the body gets just a little bit resistant to all the insulin the pancreas is producing. Average blood sugars trend upwards, and the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate. The cycle continues for years, the teen becomes an adult, and slowly starts putting on weight because of the insulin his body is producing. The excess fat and the excess insulin cause excess hunger, which causes excess eating, and signs of metabolic syndrome and diabetes slowly begin to manifest.

I have no idea if this is the correct etiology of the development of Syndrome X, but this story seems to fit the pattern that many American men fall into. Young guys, more than young women, enjoy the experience of going to a fast food place together and eating obscene amounts of food. It's a competition, a sign of manliness. I remember being 10 years old and going to McDonalds with my friend Bryan and racing to see who could eat a Big Mac the fastest.

Even now, at 38 years of age, I'm still tempted to wolf down a Volcano Box. Who wouldn't be? That kind of food makes you hungry. It's sweet, it's salty, it's flavor-enhanced, it's addictive, and gives you a calming sense of satiety. It doesn't feel like too much food, because as a culture, we've made peace with the idea of enormous meals.

There's a lot of money in the super-size food industry, and chances are, that money will be used to market Big-Macs, Whoppers, and Vocalno Boxes to a whole new generation of kids. I'm not sure any health-care reform will be able to deal with that.

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