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Diet Divas Debate

There was a heavyweight diet summit Thursday in Washington. The biggest, best-selling names in the field met to talk over the way to lose those excess pounds, and it turned into a not-always-polite food fight. CBS News Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin has the story.

When experts are summoned to Washington, it's usually to discuss war, peace, the economy. So this summit was a little unusual. These leaders were best-selling diet authors and the crisis they face is the nation's growing girth.

"That's the problem in this country: We eat too much!" says Daniel Glickman, Secretary of Agriculture.

So, at the secretary's request, the nation's diet gurus shared the stage to shed a little light on their controversial and contradictory diets.

Some say the breakfast of champions is high in fat and low in carbohydrates. Dr. Robert Atkins starts with a three egg omelette, avocado and two strips of bacon. Others say fat causes heart disease, so the lower the fat the better. A meat-based diet is not as healthful as a plant-based diet, says Dr. Dean Ornish.

The only thing they all agree on is that refined sugars are bad and more exercise is good.

Maybe the question of what to eat wouldn't be such a big debate if it wasn't such a big business: Americans spend about $30 billion a year on diet books and products. The Atkins book alone has over six million copies in print.

But not everyone thinks much of his advice. "Telling people that pork rinds and sausages is good for you may sell books, but it's irresponsible," says Dr. Ornish. Some diet gurus weren't even that polite about their colleagues' work.

For confused dieters watching this great nutrition debate, little was settled. The government says it won't endorse any diet, but in this era of unprecedented obesity, it seems federal guidelines aren't working either.

So for now, the government has joined the national obession with finding a diet that works.
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