As low levels of vitamin D are linked to a growing range of health problems... Could sunshine save your life?

Evidence is growing that we all need more vitamin D - and that low levels of it are causing serious and widespread health problems.

Only last week, research from Bristol University revealed that pregnant women who had higher levels of the vitamin produced taller and stronger-boned children. Other recent research suggests a deficiency of vitamin D in pregnancy and childhood could increase the risk of a child developing multiple sclerosis. Researchers have also linked insufficient vitamin D to heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, various forms of cancer, diabetes and arthritis. Low levels of vitamin D are thought to increase the likelihood of inflammatory bowel disease, such as Crohn's, and there is even some evidence that the number of people getting colds and flu might be reduced each winter if they raised their vitamin D levels.

'Vitamin D plays a vital role in the diet,' says Bridget Benelam, nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. 'It is easily absorbed by the body and is needed for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, both bone-building nutrients.'

Our main source of vitamin D is the sun. An inactive form of the vitamin, called cholecalciterol, is triggered when the skin is exposed to sunlight. This is then taken by the bloodstream and stored in the muscles or in body fat, or it is passed through the liver and kidneys to become an active form of vitamin D.

The problem is that we are not getting enough sun. In Britain almost no vitamin D is generated in the skin during the winter months because the solar radiation contains too little ultraviolet light.

Source - Daily Mail