Throughout the colder months, it's not uncommon to feel down - with lots of individuals suffering from depression, anxiety and even panic attacks.

According to Dr John Briffa, "many people in the UK experience symptoms that are due to vitamin D deficiency at this time of year, often without even knowing it".

This vital nutrient is produced in our skin when we come into contact with sunlight - something which happens less and less as the nights draw closer. It can also be found in some nutritional supplements.

More than simply enhancing our mood, Dr Briffa believes that vitamin D can perform a whole host of other fantastic bodily functions.

Improved fertility

Last week a study at Yale University investigated women undergoing IVF treatment.

The experiment looked at women in a variety of states, some from the sunny West Coast of America, and others in the much cloudier East Coast.

It found that those women who have more sunlight had a 50 per cent success rate. When compared with those women from the East Coast who had only 38 per cent success, it can be easily presumed that vitamin D has an impact on fertility.

"One theory is that vitamin D might affect the lining of the uterus and thereby help embryos to establish themselves in the womb," said Dr Briffa.

Heart disease and cancer prevention

Some scientists have made links between vitamin D and heart disease and cancer prevention.

Many are aware that increased exposure to sunlight is thought to produce cancer, so these findings may come as a surprise to many.

However, vitamin D may also be able to reduce the risks of several types of cancer including breast, colon, bladder and cervix.

It is also thought to reduce blood pressure-determining hormones which could give a reduced risk of heart disease.

"Since cholesterol is a building block of vitamin D and sunlight can speed the body's transformation of it into the vitamin, sunlight has some capacity to lower cholesterol," Dr John Briffa reported.

Posted by Freya Harper