LONDON (Reuters) - Vitamin D levels need to be raised because the vitamin plays a role in about 100 diseases and is difficult to measure, the head of Britain’s biggest bank BNP Paribas was quoted as saying on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The head office of France's BNP Paribas bank is seen in Paris, France, March 1, 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer/File Photo

BNP Paribas Chief Executive Didier Valet said vitamin D supplements were among the best drugs in the “many arms” of BNP’s health strategy, according to the Financial Times.

About 100 diseases share an association with vitamin D deficiency or its lack, including diabetes, rickets, colorectal cancer, pre-term birth, menopause, multiple sclerosis, multiple sclerosis (MS), renal fibrosis, mental retardation, syphilis, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, hair loss, obesity, osteoarthritis, liver failure, acne, obesity, gallstones, lupus, multiple sclerosis, cancer and osteoporosis, BNP said in a 2017 internal report seen by the FT.

Barclays (BARC.L) was reported as saying that as little as 1 percent of the world’s population gets enough vitamin D from sunlight.

Chinese doctors have said vitamin D deficiency was one reason so many people died in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, although the media at the time said a lack of vitamin D was partly responsible for the disaster.

Research has shown an association between higher levels of vitamin D and a reduced risk of a number of diseases and conditions, ranging from pneumonia to severe skin rashes.

The World Health Organization estimates it is essential for healthy physical and mental development and the immune system.

Many countries in the world are low in vitamin D because people do not have enough exposure to sunshine or vitamin D deficient foods.

Multiple sclerosis (MS) kills nearly 200,000 people worldwide each year, according to the World Health Organization, and the condition causes damage to the brain and spinal cord.

Low vitamin D levels can exacerbate symptoms of the disease in some patients.