About a quarter of Britons may suffer from a winter deficiency of vitamin B which can increase the risk of muscle weakness, autoimmune diseases, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer, health experts said on Thursday.
Britain’s northern location and lack of sunshine means that during the winter months many people do not get enough of the vitamin which the body makes when it is exposed to sunlight. Foods such as oily fish and egg yoke are rich in vitamin D and breakfast cereals and margarine are fortified with it, but it might not be enough to get Britons through the winter months when their stores of the vitamin diminish. “About 25 percent of adults are deficient in vitamin D in winter,” Dr Birgit Teucher, of the Institute of Food Research, told a news briefing. Dr Barbara Boucher, of the Barts & London Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, said experts knows Britons need more. “No one should go short of vitamin D,” she added. Teucher, Boucher and other health experts said more research is needed but suggested vitamin D supplements such as cod liver oil and fortifying more foods could be a solution. Graham Bentham, a professor of environmental science at the University of East Anglia, said 80 percent of vitamin D comes from exposure to sunlight. Increased time spent indoors and fears about the risks of cancer from too much sun have limited many people’s exposure to sunlight. In addition, from October to March sunlight exposure in Britain will not be sufficient for the body to produce any vitamin D. “During these winter months we rely on what we have stored in our body from summer exposure and what we get from diet,” said Bentham. (Source: Reuters, Sept 2004)