Dr Klaper Healthcare in Nutrition Symposium

According to conventional wisdom, you should never meet your heroes because it’s bound to end in disappointment. Well, when it comes to Dr Michael Klaper, with whom I shared the stage at the inaugural Nutrition in Healthcare Symposium at Sydney’s Royal Prince Alfred Hospital on Sunday 12 November, I can vouch that the old saying simply isn’t true!

The Nutrition in Healthcare Symposium is the brainchild of Lucy Stegley, found of Raw Events, a company dedicated to creating and facilitating nutrition, medical, fitness and film events that showcase the world’s best and brightest plant-based health experts.

Raw Events kicked off the first instalment in this annual event in style, by facilitating an Australia and New Zealand lecture tour by one of the luminaries of the plant-based health world, Dr Michael Klaper.

I first met Dr Klaper in person at the very first Plant-Based Nutrition Healthcare Conference (PBNHC) I attended, in 2014 in San Diego, when I was lucky enough to grab a seat at the lunch table at which he was sitting. I’ve since had brief conversations with him at the PBNHCs I’ve attended in Los Angeles, and every encounter with him has confirmed the impression I formed when I first watched his video A Diet for All Reasons – on VHS!!!! – when I was a naturopathy student.

Dr Klaper is incredibly experienced, with over 40 years of medical practice in a wide variety of settings under his belt. Since 2009 he has practised at TrueNorth Health Center in Santa Rosa, California, where he has overseen remarkable recoveries from a wide range of chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and autoimmune diseases – including, I’m pleased to say, several of my clients – utilising the power of water-only fasting and optimal plant-based nutrition.

He’s also funny, warm, compassionate, wise, has the energy of someone 30 years younger than his 70+ years, and is incredibly fired-up about the transformative power of plant-based nutrition to restore and optimise health, save the planet and prevent the monstrous cruelty to animals that is embedded in our food production system.

So I could not have been more proud to have been invited to speak at the Sydney symposium, and to spend the day with one of my heroes!

Just a little star-struck 🙂

The day began with MC Katrina Fox welcoming Dr Stuart White, director of the Institute for Sustainable Futures at the University of Technology, Sydney to the stage to argue the case for a plant-based diet on behalf of the planet, future humans, and all the other species with whom we humans coexist.

Raw Events founder Lucy Stegley (L) and MC Katrina Fox (R)

Stuart pointed out that animal agriculture is the single greatest contributor to global climate change… and the one most amenable to rapid change. All it takes is enough human beings saying ‘no’ to meat, dairy products and eggs, and we can arrest our slide into disastrous and irrevocable global warming.

Dr Stuart White

The education component of the symposium commenced with a detailed and informative presentation on inflammatory bowel disease – one of my practice specialties – by my dear friend Dr Heleen Roex-Haitjema, and her daughter Dr Juliette Roex. Heleen is a Dutch-trained paediatrician who emigrated to Australia in 2000 with her husband, obstetrician/gynaecologist Dr Alphonse Roex and their 3 children; while Juliette is all set to continue the Roex-Haitjema family’s proud tradition, having graduated from medical school just 2 weeks ago.

Drs Juliette Roex (L) and Heleen Roex-Haitjema (R)

Juliette told the audience something truly shocking – in 6 years of medical school, she had received less than 2 hours of nutrition education! So don’t be surprised that your doctor is completely unaware of the power of plant-based nutrition to prevent and even reverse disease – he or she simply hasn’t been taught even the most fundamental principles of nutrition.

Fortunately for Juliette, not only have her parents been immersed in the study and practice of plant-based nutrition for the past 7 years; she also completed an internship at TrueNorth Health Center earlier this year, where she witnessed recoveries from serious illnesses that she had never seen in her previous hospital placements.

My presentation, titled ‘2 Brains and 100 Trillion Bugs’, was up next. I took the audience on a whirlwind tour of the human gut, including the enteric nervous system (a.k.a. the ‘2nd brain’), the gut microbiome, and the fascinating interplay between our 2 brains and those teeming microorganisms that form the greatest percentage – in terms of cell number and genetic material – of the human holobiont.


Yours truly

Dr Luke Wilson, co-director of The BROAD Study – the most successful weight loss intervention that employed an ad libitum (i.e. all-you-can-eat) diet and no formal exercise component ever published in the medical literature, spoke next.

Luke captivated the audience with video footage of his study participants, who were recruited from a GP practice in the little town of Gisborne, on New Zealand’s North Island, and taught to adopt a wholefood plant-based diet in order to lose weight and reduce their blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels.

While those were the medical objectives of the BROAD study, Luke made the point that what matters to patients is how they feel and how they look, not the numbers on their lab tests, and urged the health care practitioners in the audience to pay more attention to the values and motivations of the people they’re caring for.

Dr Luke Wilson

After a delicious lunch catered by Shift Eatery, it was time for the star of the show to take the stage. Dr Klaper entertained, informed and inspired the audience with the tale of his career trajectory – from green young medical graduate expecting to treat exotic diseases such as leprosy – through to his dramatic awakening to the undeniable fact that almost all the medical maladies he was treating were attributable to his patients’ habits of living. As the sign in his office at TrueNorth says,

It’s the food.

It’s been the food all along.

Dr Klaper discussed some of the common nutritional mistakes made by vegans, including neglecting their vitamin B12 supplementation and not paying enough attention to iodine and omega 3 fats. His thoughts on the ‘failure to thrive’ vegan – the person whose health seems to deteriorate if they don’t eat animal products – struck a chord with me, as I have encountered this situation with a few clients over the years.

Perhaps, he speculated, such people have become so dependent on consumption of ‘carnonutrients’ – nutrients such as creatine and carnitine that humans can make in their own tissues but which are supplied ready-formed when we eat animal flesh – that their enzymic machinery takes a while to gear up after they adopt a wholly plant-based diet. He has found that such people can adapt to a vegan diet if they slowly wean off meat by eating small portions of it at increasing intevals.

Dr Klaper also discussed the looming catastrophe of chronic disease that he anticipates in long-term adherents of animal food-based Paleo diets. While he acknowledged the positive elements of popular Paleo teachings, such as eliminating dairy products and processed foods, the effects of running high amounts of animal fat and protein and everything that accompanies them – bacterial endotoxin, artery-toxic TMAO, inflammatory Neu5Gc, carcinogenic heterocyclic amines, bioaccumulative pesticides and industrial contaminants, just to name a few – through one’s body for years to decades, while depriving oneself of all the protective substances found in starchy vegetables, legumes and whole grains, are too frightening to contemplate.

Every population and long-term intervention study ever done shows that a diet based on minimally-processed whole plant foods promotes health and reduces the risk of chronic disease in human beings.

And just to prove that point, 4 ‘ex-patients’ took the stage after Dr Klaper’s presentation to share their stories of recovery from serious illnesses, using the power of plant-based nutrition. Adam Guthrie went from having a heart attack to completing an Ironman event – ditching all his medications along the way; Kris Goetz solved her chronic pain and dramatically reduced her medication for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis; Amanda Fisher healed herself of crippling rheumatoid arthritis; and Vanessa Cullen is achieving athletic feats that no one with polycystic kidney disease is supposed to be able to perform!

Adam Guthrie

Amanda Fisher

Vanessa Cullen

(I’m particularly proud to note that Kris and Vanessa are clients of mine, and I can claim a little credit for their successes :).)

If you’re feeling disappointed that you missed out on the symposium, I have terrific news for you – the marvellous Anna Chisholm (another client of mine with a plant-based health recovery story) audio recorded the symposium and will be releasing the recordings on her Big Impact podcast. Subscribe to the Big Impact podcast now to catch up on previous episodes – including 2 featuring yours truly – and be notified when the symposium recordings are ready.

All the symposium speakers together

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