Sunlight and vitamin D have a powerful impact on our health, so if the sun shines, get out there!

Are you suffering from a severe lack of sunshine, searching through holiday brochures and desperate to feel some heat on your skin again?

Sun certainly receives a barrage of bad press.

But it is actually one of the most important nutrients our bodies need to prevent cancer… and obesity.

Much of the criticism is based on our tendency to take too much sun in too little time.

Certainly, too much of it can be damaging and we need to remember to be sensible and avoid allowing the sun to burn our bodies.

Sun demands our respect and precautions should be taken.

But vitamin D is actually a hormone, produced in the skin as a result of exposure to sunlight.

And, while we need to be respectful we also need to be aware that there are many benefits of vitamin D absorbed by the sun’s rays.

Here are just a few examples: It improves muscle function – if you have chronic pain you may want to assess your vitamin D levels.

Research shows a link between vitamin D and muscle function – including recovery from exercise and daily activities. It also explains why lower levels can lead to physical fatigue.

It blunts your appetite – not only does vitamin D impact on our mood, but the gloomy weather we are so often exposed to in England can actually increase the chances of putting on weight.

We produce vitamin D when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in bright sunlight.

Not only does it boost our immune system but rising vitamin D levels are also known to activate the production of the hormone leptin.

This hormone sends signals to our brain that our stomachs are full.

It can protect lung function – the sunshine vitamin will help you to breathe easier. Research has suggested vitamin D may protect against some of the effects of smoking on lung function.

No, this is not an excuse to smoke. To have better lung function in the first place DO NOT SMOKE.

It can help you shed your winter weight – there is proof that vitamin D lowers insulin and improves serotonin levels, enhances the immune system, controls appetite and improves fat-loss results.

It can lower blood pressure – vitamin D supplementation can help lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to all these problems and it is also having a huge effect on children.

Recent research has shown breast milk has low levels of vitamin D.

This can lead to babies having seizures, developmental delay and rickets.

Although vitamin D deficiency is unusual in babies born at term to mothers with adequate vitamin D status, the problem is, as adults, we do not get enough exposure to the sun.

There is also the concern for our children.

Research has shown an increase in rickets due to the trend for today’s children spending more time indoors, playing computer games and watching television.

Next week I will explain how we can increase our vitamin D intake.

In the meantime, make the most of any sunshine, even if it is cold, get out there and lap it up.

We need the sunshine to survive.