British people are being advised to go out and enjoy the sunshine as it can help increase Vitamin D levels. Figures have shown that almost a quarter of Britons have low levels of in Vitamin D in their blood.
Vitamin D is essential in helping the body absorb calcium from food and a deficiency can cause problems with muscle functions and bone loss in adults and rickets in children, Arthritis Research UK has said.
Low levels of Vitamin D has also been linked to several other illnesses including a higher risk of contracting diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, muscle weakness and even breast and bowel cancer.
The government has recommended using supplements of Vitamin D for children under the age of five and pregnant women, who are the most at risk, along with breast-feeding women and those above the age of 65.
Dr William Marshall, a biochemist and clinical director of pathology at The London Clinic, said that Vitamin D is important for a healthy immune system and helps maintain general good health and growth.
Dr Marshall also informed that levels below 25 nanomoles per litre of plasma are considered clinically deficient and that the ideal Vitamin D level is 75. Anything that lies between is less than ideal and supplements are advised to help raise them to a healthy level.
According to Dr Marshall, the British sun is only strong enough to make Vitamin D from the end of March until September, between 11am and 3pm, and experts say that the key is to make as much Vitamin D as possible in the summer months, as the body can store it for later use.
The medical director of Arthritis Research UK, Alan Silman, said that people should go out for a few minutes each day – 15 minutes is enough – when the sun is out and expose their arms and face to the sunshine. He also warned that it is important, however, to not allow any overexposure and to avoid letting the skin go red or burn, particularly on days with strong sunshine. He urged those with sensitive or fair skin to be more careful.