Doctors Say It’s Probably Fine to Take Expired Vitamins, but There’s a Catch

Photo credit: luchschen - Getty Images
Photo credit: luchschen - Getty Images

From Prevention

There’s no doubt that your body relies on the vitamins and minerals in your diet to function at its best, but researchers continue to go back and forth on the efficacy of popping a pill for better health. But even though there is a lot of debate surrounding whether vitamins and supplements are actually beneficial, that hasn’t really stopped Americans from consuming them.

The dietary supplement industry is worth about $30 billion in the United States. With more than 90,000 products to choose from, national data shows that more than half of adults reported using at least one supplement product-while 10 percent reported using at least four supplement products, according to a 2018 report published in JAMA.

But what happens when vitamins are left unused before their expiration date? Do they go bad-or are they safe to take long after you’ve purchased them? Here, experts explain everything you need to know about vitamin expiration dates.

How quickly do vitamins expire?

Take note: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not review or approve dietary supplements for how safe or effective they may be, according to the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

“The FDA does not require supplement labels to provide an expiration date, but companies may choose to display a ‘best by’ or ‘use by’ date on a supplement label to indicate how long a supplement is expected to last unopened before its potency falls below 100 percent of the listed amount,” says Tod Cooperman, MD, founder of, a company that independently tests health and nutrition products for quality. “However, companies that include these dates are required to have stability data to support their claims.”

Don’t fret too much, your supplements probably last longer than they’re given credit for. “Properly stored vitamins are likely safe past their expiration date for up to two years,” says Shanna Levine, MD, clinical instructor of medicine at the Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. Proper storage means your vitamins are placed out of sunlight, out of extremely hot temperatures, and are protected from humidity, she says, meaning your medicine cabinet isn’t really ideal.

Certain types of vitamins and supplements can expire more quickly than others, too. “Water-soluble vitamins-such as B12 and vitamin C-are more likely to lose their potency quickly,” says Dr. Levine. That’s compared to fat-soluble vitamins, like vitamins A, D, E, and K.

Probiotics, though not ‘vitamins,’ may require storage in a fridge because they contain live bacteria,” she adds. “Their shelf life is about a year, as well as liquids and oils, which tend to expire faster than tablets or capsules.”

Can you take expired vitamins?

Taking expired vitamins is generally considered safe-but there’s a catch. “Expired vitamins will not become poisonous, but rather lose their potency,” says Dr. Levine. “Exceptions to this rule are if supplements are stored in wet, hot, or humid areas and produce mold. Moldy vitamins should not be consumed.”

Just keep in that mind that certain groups of people may be at a higher risk than others if they take expired vitamins.

“Pregnant women and women trying to conceive should be taking prenatal vitamins. The most important reason is the folate supplementation,” says Dr. Levine. So if you’re taking expired vitamins, you may not be getting all of the nutrients your baby needs for proper development, especially if you’re already lacking certain nutrients in your diet.

This also includes people who may have a vitamin deficiency. “People with malabsorption in their stomach or intestines, such as patients after weight loss surgery or patients with gastrointestinal issues, need robust vitamin supplementation to maintain deficiencies,” says Dr. Levine. Additionally, patients with osteoporosis require adequate calcium and vitamin D to maintain bone health.”

To be safe, you should always check with your health care provider to see if you’re okay to take expired vitamins if you require regular supplementation. He or she will steer you in the right direction-and most likely toward a fresh bottle.

Bottom line: Most vitamins are considered safe for up to two years past their expiration date (unless they contain mold), but may become less potent over time. Pregnant women and people in need of regular supplementation due to deficiency should talk to their doctor before relying on expired vitamins.

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