A genetic defect in some of Britain's women means they are more likely to get flu and unhealthy skin caused by a lack of vitamin A, research shows.
Vitamin A can usually be obtained from beta-carotene, the orange pigment in carrots, but the University of Newcastle found that almost 50% of British women have a genetic variation which stops them benefiting from the goodness in beta-carotene.
"Worryingly, younger women are at particular risk," said Dr Georg Lietz, whose research is published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) journal.
He said many women rely on eating carrots or taking beta-carotene supplements to maintain healthy levels of the vitamin.
"The older generations tend to eat more eggs, milk and liver which are naturally rich in vitamin A whereas the health-conscious youngsters on low-fat diets are relying heavily on the beta-carotene form of the nutrient," he said.
Dr Lietz led university researchers who analysed DNA from 62 women. The scientists found that 29 of the women, or 47%, carried the gene mutation.
The findings will be presented this month at the Hohenheim Nutrition Conference in Stuttgart, Germany.
"The article is very probably correct, but even more women and at least as many men suffer from the effects of vitamin B12 deficiency, but no one but the sufferers seem to give a hoot. It is a condition which is easily and cheaply sorted but GPs, nurses and all others connected with the NHS simply do not look for it, so nothing gets done leaving the sufferers to continue suffering and deteriorating" - Roy Sandiford, Poulton-le-Fylde