A company in the United States has come up with an answer to ending the high levels of vitamin D deficiency in the UAE: eating suntanned mushrooms.
A lack of the sunshine vitamin, as it is called, is linked to a string of health conditions ranging from osteoporosis to cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
"Mushrooms make vitamin very similarly to the way humans make vitamin D," said Vincent Hackel, the chief executive of Guzen Development, the distributor for Monterey Mushrooms, the world's largest mushroom grower.
"We aren't certain why they do it. The hypothesis is that the mushroom is doing it to protect its own DNA. All mushrooms do this to varying degrees," added Mr Hackel, who is taking part in the food and hospitality trade show, Gulfood, being held this week in Dubai.
Monterey Mushrooms treats all of the fresh mushrooms it sells with UVB (ultraviolet B) light and each serving provides around 400 international units (IU), the recommended daily allowance of the vitamin in many countries. But the company has also developed a highly concentrated powder that provides 5,000 IU per gram.
The UAE has one of the highest rates of vitamin D deficiency in the world. Experts estimate 60 per cent of men and 65 per cent of women in the Emirates are deficient in the vitamin.
About 10 per cent of a person's recommended intake is derived from foods such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and milk, while the other 90 per cent is produced by the body in response to the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Monterey Mushrooms has carried out studies to ensure there is no change in the mushrooms' chemical nature when producing the powder, which costs US$130 (Dh477.4) a kilo for the organic variety and $110 for the non-organic version.
Originally the company intended to make only capsules out of the powder.
But it is 100 per cent mushroom, which means it can be used in soups and sauces.
"It works [in] anything you want to add mushroom flavour to and all the nutritional benefits of mushrooms and you want to increase vitamin D," Mr Hackel said.
"My dream is that it will be on every pizza out there. Who doesn't have mushrooms on their pizza? You could have one slice and give someone their daily requirement of vitamin D."