Vitamin D has become the nation’s best-selling single health supplement as we try to cope with long and gloomy winters.
The ‘sunshine vitamin’ – produced naturally by the body when the skin is exposed to the sun – has overtaken vitamin C, which is found in fruit and vegetables, following evidence that millions are deficient.
Vitamin D is important for keeping bones, teeth and muscles healthy. It is also said to ease depression, help reduce inflammation, ward off viruses and even halve the risk of severe asthma attacks.
Worryingly, a lack of vitamin D has been associated with a return in rickets among children.
Rickets, a bone disease common in Victorian times, was virtually eradicated in the 1950s. But cases more than doubled in the decade to 2016.
Experts blame the rise on reduced exposure to sunshine in early childhood due to a lack of outdoor play, and diets low in vitamin D-rich foods such as oily fish, eggs and liver.
Sales of vitamin D among the old have been boosted by research showing it can combat osteomalacia, a bone pain condition, as well as helping to prevent fractures.
Retail analysts Mintel said 56 per cent of those who use supplements take a multivitamin. Of those who take a single supplement, 33 per cent take vitamin D, 27 per cent vitamin C, 15 per cent vitamin B, 12 per cent vitamin A and 10 per cent vitamin E.
Mintel found that vitamin D usage has ticked upwards for all age groups, but the biggest change was among those aged 35-54 with a rise from 22 per cent to 35 per cent.