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nightsurfer on 2009-12-13"We are fond of grumbling about Britain's grey skies, but there may be a good medical reason for doing so. It seems the dreary weather is bad for our hearts - worse, even, than raised cholesterol and an unhealthy diet.
That's the controversial claim being made by Dr David Grimes, a gastroenterologist from Blackburn. He's been gazing at the sky for 20 years for clues about why his patients get more sick than those in the south of the country.
And what he's found turns key assumptions about heart disease on their head. 'It's not diet or cholesterol levels that raise your risk of heart disease,' he claims. 'It's where you live. People in the north are more likely to be ill because they get less sunshine
Basically they are suffering from 'latitude' sickness. The link is vitamin D. While we get some from our diet, the main source is the sun - sunlight converts a compound in the skin into vitamin D, so the amount you make is directly related to the amount of sunshine you get.
In a new book Dr Grimes argues the higher the level of vitamin D in your blood, the lower your risk of heart disease and a range of other illnesses.
If he's right, what we need is not diet and lifestyle advice, but food fortified with vitamin D. For years the vitamin was thought to be useful only for preventing rickets.
So how does he treat them? 'You can do it with diet,' he says 'One Bangladeshi woman eats oily fish every day and now has a vitamin D blood level of 40. 'We give supplements of 1,000 international units (IU) a day or we can give an injection of 300,000 IU that lasts for a year.
'The patients respond well,' says Grimes 'but what's needed is a proper controlled, long-term trial and who is going to fund that? Not a drug company.'"