Why you shouldn't take vitamins and supplements past their expiration date

·4 min read
vitamins expire supplements
Vitamins and supplements do expire even if you don't see an expiration date on the package. d3sign/Getty Images
  • Expired vitamins or supplements are not toxic, but they are less potent and effective.

  • Taking less-potent vitamins can be dangerous if you need a certain dosage to treat a condition.

  • To prevent vitamins from expiring, store them in a cool, dark, and dry environment.

  • Visit Insider's Health Reference library for more advice.

The use of supplements has increased in recent years. Designer herbs, blends, and formulations of vitamins are endorsed by popular celebrities and packaged to be pleasing. But do we know how they should be stored to keep from degrading or expiring? Here is some information for you to keep your vitamins potent and safe.

Yes, vitamins do expire

The FDA doesn't require an expiration date which means most vitamins do not have one listed on the package, but they do, in fact, expire. However, it's still safe to take vitamins after their best by date.

"Vitamins are still fine to take after [their expiration], but they may lose their potency or begin to break down," says Chelsea Tersavich, PA-C and Nutrition Outreach Fellowship participant for the Physician Assistant Foundation. "The breakdown can be to the vitamin itself or the [non-vitamin] compounds it is mixed with to create the vitamin tablet, pill, chewable, or gummy."

There is no consensus on when vitamins may expire or begin to lose their potency as every vitamin will expire at a different rate. That's because each vitamin formulation is unique, containing different ingredients, amounts, and packaging.

However, tablets and pills last longer than liquids or gummy vitamins because their hard exterior resists moisture. They are also able to stand larger fluctuations in temperature because they are protected.

"Chewable and gummy vitamins have fillers that although make them more enjoyable to take, make them more susceptible to absorbing moisture and therefore breaking down faster than tablets and pills. Additionally, gummy vitamins have a much smaller temperature range they can be exposed to without melting," Tersavich says.

Important: While taking vitamins that have passed their expiration date won't be toxic, it can still be dangerous depending on your situation. For example, if you are pregnant, your body and baby require extra nutrients, like folate. "Taking expired folate may mean that a [pregnant person] isn't getting as much folate as they think or need," Tersavich says.

How to store your vitamins properly

It's important to store any medications away from environmental factors like sunlight, humidity, water, and even air because these will reduce the vitamin's potency or break down their composition.

Here is a list of common vitamins and what elements impact them:

Here are some tips to properly store your vitamins:

  • Keep at room temperature, between 46 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Avoid storing them in the refrigerator, which has high moisture levels.

  • Find a dark location, to protect from sunlight.

  • Don't store them in the bathroom as humidity from the shower can damage vitamins.

  • Keep them in the original packaging.

  • Avoid storing in the kitchen if cabinets are glass and get direct sunlight

Additionally, look for a storage spot that is convenient to your personal routine. For example, You wouldn't want to store vitamins high up on an out-of-sight shelf as you'll be more likely to forget them. Instead, place them by the coffee machine or on your nightstand, where you'll see them first thing in the morning or before you go to bed.

Important: Any supplement or vitamin should be treated like medicine. They should be away from pets or children to prevent accidental ingestion.

Insider's takeaway

While vitamins don't truly degrade, time, temperature and humidity can take a toll on their effectiveness. It's very important to store them properly to preserve their potency and effectiveness. Even though vitamins are all different in how they break down, the best way to store them needs to be away from all damaging environmental factors like water, sun, and air.

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