How sunlight keeps our bones healthy

The benefits of sunlight for our bones will be the subject of a free talk in Aberdeenshire on Monday (November 15).

Our bodies require calcium to make our bones strong, but we only absorb a small amount of it without vitamin D.

Vitamin D helps our bodies take in more calcium and we gain this through the short wavelengths – called ultraviolet B (UVB) rays – found in sunlight.

However in the UK in the winter months the angle of the sun changes so that we are deprived of these short wavelengths.

This is of particular significance in the north-east of Scotland which experiences a longer “vitamin D” winter – usually lasting from October – April - than for example the south of England.

Dr Helen Macdonald from the University of Aberdeen’s Institute of Medical Sciences will give a talk at the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh, outlining research being conducted into the importance of vitamin D and how we can ensure we get enough.

The event – which begins at 12.30pm in the lighthouse museum café - is the latest in the University of Aberdeen’s new Café Light series which provides a relaxed public forum for the discussion of topical issues in science.

Dr Macdonald said: “In the UK, one in two women and one in five men over the age of 50 will break a bone, mainly because of osteoporosis.

“Eating a healthy, balanced calcium rich diet is crucial to keep our bones healthy but our bodies only absorb a small amount  of calcium without vitamin D.

“Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb more calcium through our diet but it can only be found in a limited number of natural foods – namely egg yolks and oily fish. 

“Ultraviolet B sunlight rays are the major source of vitamin D in the UK, however the times of year where we have access to these rays due to the angle of the sun, is limited to the summer months. 

“We also cannot assume we even get enough vitamin D in the summertime as clothing and sun protection blocks these rays and it’s crucial we strike a safe balance between protecting our skin and getting the correct amount of vitamin D.

“In my talk I will outline research being conducted at the University into the amount of vitamin D we require to keep our bones healthy and how we can boost this vitamin D gap in the winter months through our diet.”

Dr Macdonald’s talk is free to attend and advance booking is not required.

Visitors to the Café Light event will also receive discounted admission to the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses on the day.

The final event in the Café Light series will take place on December 13 when Dr Marco Theil from the University of Aberdeen’s Department of Physics will discuss the physics at work behind Scotland’s coastline.

For the full programme of Café Light events visit   

For more information on the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses visit