A new Europe-wide study coordinated by researchers based at University College Cork has found that one in every eight people in Ireland suffers from deficiency in vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults, and can also cause other chronic health problems.

The EU funded ODIN project involved an analysis of vitamin D status in 18 nationally or regionally representative samples of children, teenagers, adults and the elderly across the continent.

In total more than 55,800 people took part in the research.

The study concluded that 13% of those tested across Europe do not get enough vitamin D and four in every ten people do not get enough to support good bone health.

The research, coordinated by Professors Kevin Cashman and Mairead Kiely at UCC's Cork Centre for vitamin D and Nutrition Research, is reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

It is the first time a Europe-wide study of vitamin D has been carried out.

The researchers are now working on the development of food based strategies to prevent the problem and will the data at the European Commission next month.

It is expected these plan and the raw data will help inform decision making by health authorities in the region.

"While sunlight is a key provider it is not strong enough during winter months to allow skin to make vitamin D, this is referred to as the 'vitamin D winter,'" said Professor Kevin Cashma.

"In addition, even in summer public health advice suggests limiting unprotected sun exposure due to important concerns about skin damage and cancer.

"The alternative source of vitamin D is dietary supply, however the amount in the diet of many Europeans have been shown to be low.

"Thus, additional supplies are required in the diet."

Vitamin D is not present in many food sources, but can be found in oily fish, egg yolks and some fortified foods such as milk and breakfast cereals.