In the midst of doing some spring-cleaning, I found a half-empty economy size bottle of multi-vitamins in the medicine cabinet. According to the label, they expired just a few weeks ago. The question- keep them or throw them out?
I really didn’t want to throw them out- it seemed pretty wasteful. So, I did a little research to answer a couple of questions- are expired supplements harmful? And, if not- are they still beneficial?
What I found answered both questions, and I decided to keep the vitamins. Let me share the details with you.
First, let’s start with the expiration date. The expiration date is the last day (or month) an item will be at its highest level of potency. This is essentially an assurance from the manufacturer that the quality and strength of their product is guaranteed up until the expiration date. That doesn’t mean that the product loses any benefit or becomes harmful the day after it “expires.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require supplements to have expiration dates. But, most manufacturers voluntarily list dates partially because it gives their consumers some piece of mind.
Most expiration dates are conservative, whether you’re dealing with supplements or prescription medication. Both start breaking down the day after they’re manufactured, so the fact that the product has “expired” mainly means that its lost strength, and may not have the same affect that it did when it was fresh.
Vitamins deteriorate at different rates, so manufacturers often times “beef up” the strength of some vitamins that deteriorate faster, in order to assure that they will be at the listed strength at the time of expiration.
One thing you should take a look at is they way you store your vitamins. It can have a big impact on how long your supplements will retain their strength. Be sure to check the label to see what the manufacturer advises on storage. Some folks keep their vitamins in the refrigerator, but you shouldn’t do that unless the instructions say so.
Most likely, the manufacturer will suggest that you keep your vitamins in a cool, dry, dark place and in their original containers. Some vitamins come in dark glass bottles or opaque containers to help preserve their potency. You should also store them away from heat and humidity, which makes the medicine cabinet one of the worst places for storage. I’ll be moving my supplements to the hall linen closet and putting them on a high shelf to keep them away from the kids.
If you store them properly, vitamins can last four or five years. And, taking “expired” vitamins is generally safe- they just won’t be as potent. It will take me about two more months to finish off this bottle of multi-vitamins, which means I’ll take the last few around three months after they “expired.” Perfectly safe.
Next time, though, I’ll be keeping better track of where I store my supplements so I can be sure to take them everyday. That’s how I ended up with this half empty bottle in the first place.
Performance Coach, Icelandic Fitness, Denver, Colorado