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Knoxville — The federal government recently sponsored a debate between several nutrition experts, on the best way to lose weight.

The experts debated the advantages of programs like the Robert Atkins diet, which stresses eating high-protein foods like eggs, cheese and red meat, versus the Dean Ornish diet, which promotes an almost vegetarian, very low fat menu.

A University of Tennessee nutritionist said the diet plans are contradictory, but the debate may help educate the public.

“I don’t think the nutrition community is best served by ignoring such things as the Atkins diet,” said Dr. Michael Zemel, “until they are put to the test. We have to have something to say about those diets, because people are going on them.”

Zemel said the debate was based more on belief than on fact.

“The data is not all in, in terms of carbohydrates and weight loss,” Zemel said. “What we can say is that excessive consumption of carbohydrates has contributed to caloric over-consumption.”

“Calories count. I don’t care what any of these diet experts say, calories count.”