An Evening with Dr. Klaper

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In 1981, ten years into his medical practice, Michael Klaper experienced an epiphany. “I was a resident in anesthesiology at Vancouver General Hospital in cardiovascular anesthesia service.  Every day I’m putting people to sleep and watching surgeons open their chests, open their coronary arteries and pull out this yellow, greasy gunk called ‘atherosclerosis’ that’s clogging up their blood vessels. 

“One day I was watching a surgeon pull out a particularly yellow, slithery piece of fat from the arteries and I thought to myself, man, that stuff looks like chicken fat. A little voice on my shoulder said ‘there’s a good reason why it looks like chicken fat. It is chicken fat, and cow fat, and pig fat and the fat of every other animal that passed this man’s table when he had a fork in his hand.’ 

“My dad was already showing signs of clogged arteries, and I knew I was going to be laying on that operating table with that pressure saw going up my sternum. I decided to get the message and adopted a plant-based diet. Within 12 weeks, a 20-pound spare tire of fat melted off my waste while my blood pressure and cholesterol came down, and I felt great waking up in a nice lean, light body.  I found the benefits of a plant-based diet not only in my own life, but in my own medical practice.”

This is one of many insights shared by former Maui resident Michael Klaper, M.D., who returned recently to deliver a passionate lecture about cholesterol myths, the power of plant-based diets in reversing disease, the shortcomings of the medical profession and more. His 90-minute presentation was sponsored by the Vegetarian Society of Hawaii.

“For the past 35 years I’ve been practicing a plant-based style of nutritional medicine, and for the past eight years I was working at the TrueNorth Health Center at Santa Rosa, California,” he noted. “We see people with all the classic western diseases – obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, clogged arteries – and we get these folks on a healthy diet. Low and behold, they turn into healthy human beings right before your very eyes.  It is the most satisfying kind of medicine to practice and the most scientifically interesting to see all these diseases reversed, especially the ones we’re told in medical school never go away.”

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A Diet of Death

Dr. Klaper argued that the medical profession and public are misinformed about cholesterol and its role in the buildup of life-threatening arterial plaque.  We should be focused on what’s going on inside the artery walls, not how high a cholesterol count might be. “Cholesterol itself is not an evil molecule; that’s why your liver makes it. People do not get heart attacks because their cholesterol level is too high. The real issue oxidized cholesterol.”

Oxidation, he explained, occurs when an atom or compound loses one or more electrons, resulting in stress on the body. Electrons prefer to be in pairs.  When “lost” electrons, or free radicals, seek out other electrons, they injure cells, proteins and DNA.

“The very act of cooking animal flesh and French fries full of hot vegetable oil generates gazillions of free radicals, Dr. Klaper noted. “There are lots of oxidizing agents in your bloodstream, but they will be increased after a meal made of meats and processed foods.

“The standard western diet – bacon and eggs for breakfast, cheeseburger for lunch, chicken for dinner, ice cream for desert -- meal after meal is filled with free radicals and oxidizing agents. Day after day, month after month, year after year they keep the stuff in the bloodstream.”

What’s wrong with oxidized cholesterol?

“A steady stream of oxidized LDL particles working their way to the wall of the artery creates inflammatory lesions,” Dr. Klaper explained.  “Artery abuse is what you are looking at.  The artery walls are on fire. This is not a problem with how high your LDL is. This is self-induced artery damage that the patients are causing themselves with every meal.”

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“We are herbivorous digesting creatures,” Dr. Klaper observed. “We have the same digestive system that our gorilla and bonobo cousins have up in the trees eating leaves and fruit. We are meant to run on plant material.  You start putting animal flesh and dairy products and refined oils and sugars in, it’s like putting diesel fuel in a gas-burning engine; the engine will not adapt.  We do not adapt to these diets. Our friends who follow the paleo style eating meat and veggies are going to find out the hard way that this is a diet of death.” 

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are not the answer, according to Dr. Klaper. Taking statins is a “bankrupt strategy” that poisons liver enzymes. “That’s not going to help melt this plaque away.  It’s a crude sledgehammer.”  

Dr. Klaper has a solution.

Reversing Disease

“Hippocrates ordered, ‘Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.’ The real star of the show is dark, leafy greens. Every day have a big helping of green and something yellow – carrots, sweet potatoes, squash.  They are filled with wonderful antioxidants.  Antioxidants in your bloodstream will start seeping into the wall of the arteries and neutralize the free radicals. Consequently, the plaques get smaller and smaller and the ripped up endothelial lining heals itself.  This is a reversible disease.

“Are you healing your arteries with every meal or injuring them?  That’s the only thing you need to know.  If you’re injuring your arteries with the meat and cheese and the fried foods, stop!  You’re gonna kill yourself with that stuff. You can heal your arteries with salad after soup after plate of steamed veggies. You have a tool far more powerful than Lipitor or any statin drug.” 

Dr. Klaper also advises to stay away from vegetable oils. “They are not healthy for you, no matter what the Mediterranean diet or Paleo diet nonsense says.  It’s liquid fat in a bottle, and it paralyzes the inner lining of the blood vessels that need to be healthy to allow blood flow to vital organs. It’s not healthy pouring all this fat on your food.”

It should come as no surprise that Dr. Klaper is a strong critic of the medical profession. “It’s just been stunning to me to see what has come of the phenomenon of cholesterol in your bloodstream, how it has been made Public Enemy Number One and the naked industry that has sprung up trying to pound down your cholesterol levels at any cost. I have anger towards my profession for their dishonesty and their cowardice in not telling the patient the real truth.  Your cholesterol is up because you’re eating somebody else’s cholesterol.  Stop eating all that cow cholesterol, pig cholesterol, chicken cholesterol.  Let your own liver put out exactly what your body needs.” 

Dr. Klaper calls cardiologists “fearful technicians ricocheting off cholesterol numbers” who have “abandoned their birthright as biologists. How sad. People who are here to heal hearts and heal blood vessels are filled with anxiety in making treatment recommendations.” 

Getting the Word Out

After more than four decades of medical practice, Dr. Klaper has turned his attention to reaching “the people who really need to be taught -- young first-, second- and third-year medical students while they’re still impressionable before pharmacosclerosis sets into their brains.” With the sponsorship of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, he visits medical schools throughout the country to explain the importance of plant-based diets and nutritional medicine in reversing disease.  

Fortunately, you don’t have to enroll in medical school to benefit from Dr. Klaper’s wealth of knowledge; just visit his resource-rich website, doctorklaper.com.

“Before I lay down my stethoscope, I want to have a whole crop of new young docs coming in who are aware of the power of really healthy nutrition,” he said. “This is happening around the world.  We’re getting the word out.” 

Eric Baizer