Deficiency of 'sunshine vitamin' linked to serious health issues

Added 16/08/2010

Stethoscope on a book

We get vitamin D from the sun and that’s why it’s often referred to as the sunshine vitamin. Many of us have been shying away from the sun due the threat of skin cancer from prolonged exposure. But if we don’t get enough of the sunshine vitamin, we’re exposing ourselves to other serious health issues.

The sunshine vitamin helps us to absorb calcium, leading to stronger, healthier bones. Studies have revealed that a vitamin D deficiency can lead to all sorts of serious medical conditions, including heart disease, cancer, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s. Other studies have revealed that vitamin D can boost our immune systems and keep viral infections at bay. Also, pregnant women should ensure they have plenty of vitamin D to encourage the healthy growth of their baby.

In the UK, studies have shown that as a nation, we don’t get enough of the sunshine vitamin due to our climate. Also some diets lack foods that contain vitamin D, such as oily fish, meat and egg yolks, so getting enough vitamin D through food can be particularly difficult for vegetarians. In the USA, milk is fortified with vitamin D and here in the UK, some think we should follow suit.

Sun screen manufacturers and cancer charities have led some people to believe that any amount of sun is bad for you. Overexposure to the sun’s rays can cause skin cancer, but avoiding the sun altogether can lead to other forms of cancer.

This summer, be sensible in the sun. Get you fair share of the sunshine vitamin by enjoying the sun sensibly. In hot countries, try to avoid the sun during the warmest parts of the day, usually between 11am and 3pm and wear sun screen to prevent your skin from burning. Enjoy the sun for short periods and you’ll be sure to get your fair share of the sunshine vitamin.