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At 75, Missouri dentist puts focus on nutrition

Friday, November 5, 2010 | 6:00 a.m. CDT

TIPTON — At the age of 75, Ronald Shuler still operates his dental practice in Tipton. And while many of his colleagues have retired, Shuler still has the energy to keep going.

He is able to, he said, because of proper nutrition, exercise and a healthy diet, things he believes are poorly lacking in our nation and leading to unnecessary disease, obesity and shortened lifespans.

Shuler also is a certified clinical nutritionist and is working to spread the word about the important role proper nutrition plays in people's lives every day.

"What got me into nutrition is that I was seeing what was happening to my patients," he said. "In my opinion, I changed my focus to the prevention of disease. I was looking at ways to help people have vibrant, quality health. It makes more sense to study prevention."

Shuler has been running his dental practice in Tipton for five years. Before that, he practiced in Sedalia for several years.

Shuler served in the Air Force and arrived at Sedalia Air Force Base, now Whiteman Air Force Base, in 1954. He was eventually shipped off to Greenland, where he said he became interested in dentistry.

After returning to Missouri, Shuler attended Central Missouri College, now the University of Central Missouri, where he majored in communications, chemistry and physics. After graduating, he attended dental school at St. Louis University. It's there where his interest in doing medical research really took off.

"After two years, I was doing research in microcirculation and smoking; how smoking affects circulation in the body," Shuler said. "The school was so impressed they wanted to send me to grad school."

Shuler was awarded the prestigious Edward H. Hatton Award for his research work and eventually entered a residency program in oral pathology at Firmin Desloge Hospital in St. Louis.

Shuler then wanted to serve as an officer in the Air Force and work in oral pathology, but at the time, "the Air Force had no place to put me," and he eventually ended up back at Whiteman working as a dentist with the rank of captain.

"When I got out (of the Air Force), I came to Sedalia in 1971 and opened my practice," Shuler said.

Shuler also has been involved in research involving the element magnesium and the adverse effects magnesium deficiency can have on the human body. He said he worked with Mildred Seelig of the American College of Nutrition. Noted as one of the world's leading authorities on magnesium, she helped Shuler with his research.

"I did a study that showed one of the reasons people have headaches is because of magnesium deficiency," Shuler said. "If you go to your doctor and get a blood test, they don't check for magnesium, you have to ask for it."

Shuler's research with magnesium led him to become a consultant for the Riordan Clinic, a health care facility in Wichita, Kan., that promotes proper nutrition as a key element in battling illnesses.

Shuler also belongs to the Life Extension research group. According to lef.org, the group is a global authority on nutrition, health and wellness, as well as a provider of scientific information on anti-aging supplements and therapies.

Shuler is the only dentist on the medical advisory board at Life Extension.

"I'm trying to get people proactively involved in their own health," Shuler said. "And I want the medical world to understand that if you can incorporate nutrition into treatment, it will make a big difference."

Shuler also believes poor nutrition has a major impact on how long people live.

"We are killing ourselves by what we are eating," he said. "Our food is nutritionally poor."

Shuler explained that every cell has DNA and at the end of every DNA strand, or chromosome, is a telomere, which works to protect the chromosome. Without proper nutrition, these telomeres can shorten and if they get too short, can lead to damage of the chromosome and cause cellular aging. But Shuler said research has found that a substance in grapes, resveratrol, may be able to help regrow telomeres and aid in slowing down aging. Shuler said he takes a resveratrol supplement that is equivalent to drinking 1,000 bottles of wine a day.

"I don't get drunk, but I'm doing telomere replication, causing it to regrow," he said.

Shuler's passion for health spills over into other areas of his life as well. He started running at the age of 62 and has participated in several of Sedalia's annual Firecracker Mile runs, an event in which he has won several medals. And, he gets up at 5:30 a.m. every day and rides his bicycle four or five miles.

Shuler also has consulted on nutrition with Olympic athletes, including swimmer Brooke Bennett, speed skater Cathy Turner and volleyball gold medalists Dain Blanton and Eric Fonoimoana.

Throughout his many years of research and consulting, the most important thing to Shuler is that people are properly educated about nutrition and how good nutrition can lead to a healthier, happier and longer life.

"That is the whole purpose of this," Shuler said.


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