Women in the north of the UK are four times more likely to be deprived of vitamin D than their southern counterparts, a study has suggested.
Scientists compared the vitamin D levels of women in Aberdeen and Surrey, and found that 40% of women living in the Scottish city had less than the minimum recommended amount of the vitamin in their bodies during the winter months.
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Just 10% of those screened in Surrey were below the Department of Health threshold of 25 nanomoles per litre.
Vitamin D is created naturally in the body by exposure to sun and aids calcium absorption, which is important for healthy bones. Women in Aberdeen were not exposed to enough sunlight of the right UVB wavelength to create vitamin D, experts said.
The research, published in the Osteoporosis International journal, was conducted jointly by the universities of Aberdeen and Surrey.
It also found that 9% of women Aberdeen still lacked vitamin D even in the summer months.
Low levels of vitamin D can lead to rickets - a rare disease that causes the softening and weakening of bones in children - and has been linked to multiple sclerosis.
The research found that women in Scotland received half as much sun as their southern counterparts and were “significantly” more deprived of UVB rays.
A total of 500 women between the ages of 55 and 70 in Aberdeen and Surrey were asked to wear a badge with a film that detected the amount of UVB rays they were exposed to daily.
The researchers said their findings highlight the need for better public advice on ways to boost vitamin D levels in the winter months.