SCOTLAND’S dreary weather is bad for your health and is to blame for a growing number of cases of cancer, heart disease and multiple sclerosis, doctors say.
The lack of sunlight in Scotland is leading to a rise in the number of people with a lack of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in the growth of human cells.
The British Medical Association yesterday passed a motion calling for the introduction of a national programme of Vitamin D supplements, and some doctors are now calling for it to be added to everyday foods such as milk and margarine.
People make 90 per cent of their vitamin D naturally from sunlight exposure on their skin, and the dull weather in Scotland means Scots are more likely to suffer from a deficiency than people elsewhere in the UK.
Dr Nicola Balch, an associate specialist in child health, said: “People need just 20 to 30 minutes of sun three or four times a week to ensure they get enough vitamin D, but obviously with our weather it can be impossible to get this.
“Many people know this can cause weaker bones, but what they don’t know is a lack of vitamin D has been linked to lung and bowel cancer, coronary heart disease and MS. The vitamin helps modulate cell growth and plays an important role in the immune system.
“When the sun is out I would suggest everyone, no matter what their age, gets outside to make sure their faces and arms are exposed to sunlight.
“Another reason for the growing number of people with a deficiency is the fact many of us are either indoors at work or home or in the car or bus.”
The Aberdeen-based doctor has called on the BMA to look at new ways to ensure people get enough of the vitamin, which has also been linked to sudden infant death and bone fractures in children.
“The north of Scotland has one of the highest incidences of MS in the UK,” she said. “Modern living, with an increasingly indoor lifestyle, extended cloud cover, air pollution, modern diets and the overuse of sunscreen have reduced access to natural vitamin D.
“This has extended the incidence of associated cancers and MS to many population groups, including unhealthy Scots.
“Prevention is better than cure, and it is unlikely that the NHS will adopt a policy of prescribing holidays in the sun. Therefore I urge all four health departments in the UK to introduce a national programme of vitamin D supplements.”
Dr Balch told the conference in Bournemouth how children as young as three were now being found to have a lack of the vitamin, which can cause weak bones in youngsters.
She said: “If the weather is dreary, people can do the next best thing and eat foods rich in the vitamin, like oily fish and eggs. It is my hope that before long the Scottish Government will follow the lead of the USA and add vitamin D to milk to ensure as many people have access to this as possible.”