Call for 'Sunshine Vitamin' in Milk to Help Beat Cancer
Byline: Fiona MacRae Science Reporter
MILK could be fortified with vitamin D to strengthen bones and prevent heart disease and cancer.
The vitamin is credited with a host of benefits but because the body's stores of it are mainly formed by exposure to sunlight many Britons do not have enough of it.
In England, half of the population is low in the 'sunshine vitamin' when winter ends - in Scotland, it is two -thirds.
Government scientific advisors are looking for ways to boost levels. Options include fortifying milk, something already done in countries such as Canada.
Dr Ann Prentice, chairman of the scientific advisory committee on nutrition, said: 'It is widely recognised within Government circles that we have a problem now that needs to be addressed. Milk is one of the potential vehicles that could be used.'
The vitamin is vital for calcium absorption and bone health and may help to prevent Alzheimer's.
Recent research has shown that vitamin D supplements are as good as some drugs at keeping prostate cancer under control - and it is said that taking supplements of the vitamin in pregnancy and childhood could wipe out 80 per cent of cases of multiple sclerosis.
Low levels of vitamin D are linked to a higher risk of dying from cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
Dr Susan Lanham-New, a SACN member and a Surrey University nutritionist, said that a study of 14,000 pregnant women in Bristol during the 1990s found that more than 90 per cent of them were not getting enough of the vitamin. She said: 'Vitamin D is known to be vital for a wide range of body functions. A lot of us are very worried about [deficiencies] and think it needs looking at.'
Vitamin D-rich foods include oily fish and eggs but with 90 per cent coming from the action of sunlight on the skin there are concerns that advice on abstaining from sunbathing is unnecessarily restrictive. …