The warning comes after a five-year review led by the University of Sheffield, which found one in five people in the UK have insufficient vitamin D levels.
The human body makes most of its vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin but we also get a small amount from some foods, including oily fish such as salmon, eggs and foods to which vitamin D has been added.
Groups most at risk of vitamin D deficiency include people who don’t spend a lot of time outdoors, those who cover their skin for religious and cultural reasons and people in occupations with limited sunlight exposure, such as night shift workers.
Professor Hilary Powers from the university’s department of oncology and metabolism chaired the review. She said: “Until now it has been assumed that sunlight would provide the vitamin D needed by most of the population all the year round.
“We now know this is not true because about one in five people in the UK have a low blood level of vitamin D.”
She added: “The Government now needs to look at the evidence and recommendations in the report and consider a strategy to help people in the UK increase their vitamin D intake.”
Today’s top stories: