The UK's gloomy weather doesn't just stop us having a good time – it is also making us unhealthy, advisers to the government have warned.
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A new report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) says we are not getting the vitamin D we need from sunshine during the winter months, and that we should therefore all be taking supplements of the nutrient.
Vitamin D helps prevent the development of diseases such as cancer, multiple sclerosis, asthma and type 2 diabetes. As well as forming naturally in the skin when it's exposed to sunlight, the vitamin is also present in certain foods such as fish, eggs and fortified milk.
But when summer comes to an end, diet alone isn't enough to make up for the lack of sunshine, the researchers say. To meet requirements, people between the ages of 11 and 64 should consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day. In reality they usually take in just five micrograms from food and drink.
Public Health England recently published data showing how one in five people in Britain has an unhealthily low level of vitamin D in their bloodstream.
Although there's enough sunlight in the summer to get the required daily dose without supplements, the advisers recommended everyone in the UK should take them throughout the year.
“It is proposed that the intake is applicable throughout the year, as a precautionary measure, to cover population groups in the UK identified to be at risk of minimal sunshine exposure as well as unidentified individuals in the population with minimal sunshine exposure who would be at risk of low concentrations in summer,” the report says.
Since it is difficult to achieve the recommended dose from natural food sources alone, it is recommended that consideration is given to strategies for the UK population to achieve the it.