The research, published in Environment International, is the first time that data on sunlight and vitamin D levels have been linked to detailed geographical information.
Backed by investment from ESF Convergence and conducted by researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School, in partnership with the Met Office, the team used records from over 7,000 participants who were part of the British 1958 Birth Cohort Study.
By grouping individuals according to their distance from the coast and analysing this data against detailed sunlight data from satellites and ground-based measurements the team were able to estimate the impact of geographic location on sunlight and blood levels of the vitamin D precursor 25-hydroxyvitamin D – often referred to as 25(OH)D.
"Recent research has shown that populations living close to the coast tend to have improved health and wellbeing,” commented study co-author Mark Cherrie. “Whilst coastal environments can promote physical activity and reduce stress, our study suggests that direct physiological factors could also be important, with higher vitamin D levels potentially explaining some of the effects seen."
"We know that our local climates can impact on our health. This study represents an important step in our understanding of how vitamin D varies across the country, and will help us target information about how to alleviate vitamin D deficiency and its associated problems,” added Christophe Sarran, co-ordinator of the Met Office's Health research.
According to lead author Dr Nick Osborne, the study provides further evidence that the link between vitamin D and health is complex.
Source: Environment International
Volume 77, April 2015, Pages 76–84, doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2015.01.005
“Coastal climate is associated with elevated solar irradiance and higher 25(OH)D level”
Authors: M.P.C. Cherrie, et al