Leading health experts have called for more people to take vitamin D supplements to address the high prevalence of deficiency in the UK.
The importance of taking vitamin D supplements has been highlighted by a new position statement and campaign launched by child health experts in the UK.
The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) has published a position statement giving health professionals, politicians and policymakers its informed perspective on the subject.
Its decision to do so underlines significant concerns over vitamin D deficiency, which is thought to affect more than half of UK Caucasians and up to 90 per cent of the nation's multi-ethnic population.
Deficiency has been associated with numerous health problems, ranging from an increased risk of multiple sclerosis to the bone disease rickets, which has been virtually unheard of since Victorian times - until recently.
It is now making a comeback, with figures suggesting a four-fold increase in cases over the last 15 years.
In its position statement, the RCPCH acknowledges vitamin D as an "essential nutrient" that is mainly manufactured in our skin when it comes into contact with sunlight.
However, many people have little exposure to sunlight and less than ten per cent of the required vitamin D comes from our diet, leading the royal college to state that the main source of dietary vitamin D to ensure adequate intake "is in the form of supplements".
Alongside its position statement, the RCPCH has launched a campaign aimed at tackling the nation's high levels of deficiency.
It claims that a number of steps should be taken to address the issue, including the provision of low-cost vitamin D supplements to all who need them, as well as studies to determine the pros and cons of fortifying more foods with the vitamin.
Professor Mitch Blair, officer for health promotion at the RCPCH, said that vitamin D deficiency is "a growing problem".
"Getting out in the sun more or eating more oily fish isn't going to solve the problem. Lack of vitamin D is related to a plethora of serious illnesses in children and adults that could be prevented through relatively simple steps, such as taking supplements."
A high-quality vitamin D supplement, such as the one supplied by The Really Healthy Company Ltd, can be beneficial for anyone, but particularly for children, older people, pregnant women, people who rarely go outdoors or cover up their skin for cultural reasons, and those who do not eat oily fish, which is one of the few dietary sources of the nutrient.