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It's a billion dollar business.

Whether offered to us on the internet or face to face, vitamin and mineral supplements are now a huge and expensive part of our busy lives.

But before we tell you how to cut your vitamin bill we ask the question, is your money well spent in the first place?

Australia's half dozen biggest selling vitamins and supplements in order are:

  1. Multivitamins

  2. Fish oil

  3. Glucosamine

  4. Vitamin B complex

  5. Calcium

  6. Vitamin C

But which of these in pill form actually work? At least one of these much marketed million dollar sellers currently stands accused of being next to useless.

According to dietician Tania Ferraretto from Nutrition Professionals Australia, glucosamine which is derived from shark cartilage, prawn shells and other crustaceans is questionable for the treatment of osteoarthritis and joint pain.

'I don't think there's enough evidence at this stage to support glucosamine across the population," says Tania.

Christopher Zinn from Choice Magazine says evidence that suggests glucosamine works is the result of successful marketing.

"The only studies that tend to show any benefit and pain relief from glucosamine are those that are sponsored by the industry itself," says Christopher´┐Ż"so that gives some doubt as to their credibility."

According to Tania Ferraretto pills containing vitamin B can be scrubbed from your shopping list and replaced with fresh food.

"Vitamin B is found in yeast extract, in whole grain breads and cereals and fresh fruit and vegetables."

Tania says it's not necessary to shell out your hard earned money on calcium tablets either, but it is important to get enough calcium in our bodies.

"It's actually quite easy to do," says Tania ...."for example if you use a calcium rich milk on your cereal or in your tea and coffee each day you'll get your daily requirement, or having a couple of pieces of cheese at lunchtime and then maybe a tub of yoghurt mid afternoon."

And although vitamin C tablets have their place, Tania says there is a more sensible alternative.

'Actually vitamin C tablets have 10 or 20 times the vitamin C we need each day. Instead eat an orange or a kiwi fruit each day, half a cup of berries or even a quarter of a cup of red capsicum will give you the vitamin C you need."

Tania does give a big thumbs up to multivitamins and fish oil also gets the nod.

"'Fish oil has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and can also be helpful in arthritis and inflammatory conditions."

So where can you buy these 2 winners at the lowest price?

On the internet it's: with big discounts but there is a small fee for delivery.

For customers prepared to buy their vitamins in person Chemist Warehouse are cheap and nowhere near full tote odds charged at many other outlets.

Chemist Warehouse pharmacist Phillip Colasante says the public are crazy to pay full retail prices for vitamins especially at supermarkets.

'If it's the same product why pay more?" says Phillip.

Tracey Schilds at Discount Vitamins at Harbour Town near the airport says they sell vitamins, including fish oil, for up to 50% off recommended retail prices.

"Whether they have a National Pharmacy card, whether they have a health partners card, whatever card they have we will match and give them another 2 and a half per cent on top of that," says Tracey.

And the centre management at Harbour Town has a V.I.P. card on sale for a one off yearly price of $2... that gives you an extra 5% off at many of the stores including discount vitamins

Nutrition Professionals Australia:

Harbour Town Discount Vitamins: 8356 3809

chemist warehouse

100 Rundle Mall, Adelaide - 8227 2700

400 Prospect Rd, Kilburn - 8262 1534