LACK of sunlight has emerged as a possible reason for Scotland having the highest allergy rates in the world, an expert revealed today.
Millions of Scots roll the clocks back tomorrow morning (Sun) to months of near-permanent darkness.
Now an Edinburgh University expert is warning that the lack of sunlight could be linked to one in three of the population suffering from common allergies, such as eczema and asthma.
Professor Aziz Sheikh said: “Scotland has a higher prevalence of allergies than anywhere else in the world.
“There have been observational trials that link low levels of sunlight, and low vitamin D, to an increase in the risk of developing allergic disorders.”
Professor Sheikh, chairman of Leading Allergy and Respiratory Research Group at the university, is seeking research funding to try to prove the link.
“That is why we think there should be proper studies and trials carried out,” he said. “The evidence suggests it warrants further study.”
For half the year, nobody living in Scotland gets enough UVB rays from the sun on their skin to make adequate amounts of vitamin D.
To compound the problem, many Scots do not eat enough of the foods, such as oily fish, that contain vitamin D.
Dr Glenis Scadding, president of the British Society for Allergy and Clinical Immunology (BSACI), agreed that a lack of vitamin D could be a contributing factor towards a higher prevalence of allergies in Scots.
She suggested many Scots were not taking advantage of the sunlight available.
“Allergies in Scotland have increased dramatically since the middle of the last century,” she said. “With the introduction of television, people are more likely to stay in and sit in front of the box than to go outside.”
She added: “In Scotland it’s harder for people to get enough vitamin D, and a high proportion of the population will be vitamin D deficient.
“As well as possibly preventing allergies, taking a vitamin D supplement can actually improve allergies, such as asthma.”
A study, reported in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, found that whereas in England one in four people suffer from allergy, in Scotland it is one in three.
Low levels of vitamin D have previously been linked to soaring numbers of Scots suffering MS and certain types of cancers and heart disease.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is aware that there have been a variety of reports in recent years linking vitamin D to various conditions.
“All relevant evidence is being considered by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) in its review of current recommended supplementation levels. SACN is due to report in 2014.”
It was revealed this week that more than 60% of Britons are opposed to turning the clocks back on Sunday, with almost half saying they feel “more depressed” in the winter months.
The nationwide survey also revealed that 44% of Brits say they leave the house less as the evenings draw in, while 14% would participate in more winter sports if they had the extra hour of daylight.
Over 4% of GP consultations and 1.5% of hospital admissions in the country are for allergic disease, which cost the NHS more than £130m a year.