Not enough sunshine is putting millions of us at risk from diabetesView article
The research, carried out in Australia, could play a major role in combating the condition which has been increasing in recent years. Researchers at Melbourne Pathology tested the blood of 5,200 people and established that for every extra 25 nanomoles of Vitamin D in the blood the chance of getting diabetes was reduced by 24%.
If the link is fully established between Vitamin D and diabetes, those at risk could take dietary supplements to reduce the chance of getting the disease. A lack of sunshine - and a lack of vitamin D - is estimated to cause 600,000 cases of cancer each year.
Sunshine vitamin 'protects the heart as well as bones,' researchers findView article
Vitamin D may protect against heart attacks and strokes on top of its traditional role in keeping bones strong.
Researchers found those with low blood levels of the sunshine vitamin were twice as likely to suffer heart failure, a heart attack or a stroke than those with higher levels.
The risk was still 62 per cent after adjusting for well-established risk factors such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Dr Thomas Wang, who led the research, said: "Our data raise the possibility that treating vitamin D deficiency, via supplementation or lifestyle measures, could reduce cardiovascular risk."
The five-year study, published in the journal Circulation, involved 1,700 sons and daughters of the participants in the Framingham Heart Study, a major investigation of heart disease risk factors launched in 1948.
Most of the body's supply is provided by sunlight on the skin. The rest comes from foods such as fish, eggs and fortified milk and breakfast cereals.
The mechanism by which it works is only partly understood, but Vitamin D has been shown to slow the rate of growth of cancer cells and may boost the function of blood vessels or the immune system.
Although most of those living in northern Europe are not sufficiently lacking in vitamin D to be classified as deficient, some experts believe blood levels should be higher to optimise health.
Only 10 per cent of the study sample had levels considered ideal even for bone health.
A spokesman for the Health Supplements Information Service said: "Dietary surveys show that large numbers of people in Northern climates, including Britain, have blood levels of vitamin D which are too low.
"Diet does not provide enough vitamin D and the need for each of us to expose our skin to sunlight for short periods of time to make it runs contrary to advice to avoid sunbathing to the reduce risk of skin cancer.
"Confusing messages, combined with seasonal variation in the strength of UV radiation, geographic-latitude, time of day, cloud cover and use of sunscreen merge to hamper reliable vitamin D synthesis."