If you’re like most Americans, your cupboards contain an array of supplements. A 2018 survey showed that 75% of U.S. residents are consuming some sort of dietary supplement, whether it be a probiotic, fish oil or multivitamin.
You may spend a considerable amount of time deciding what type of supplements to take, what brands you want and where to shop for them. Perhaps you’ve already built up your own collection. But have you ever stopped to think about how long those supplements last? Do vitamins ever expire? And if so, is it safe to consume them beyond the product’s expiration dates?
Vitamins do expire, but not in the same way as, say, your leftovers.
Generally speaking, vitamins and supplements do expire, but it’s not viewed in the same way as when food expires. Expiration dates for food are put into place for public safety, as many perishable foods become harmful after they expire.
But according to Jessie Hawkins, director of the Franklin School of Integrative Health Sciences, who trains professionals on dietary supplement science, vitamins and dietary supplements don’t usually go bad in the same way, due to the preparation processes.
You’re basically wasting your time if you do take an expired vitamin.
Typically, the shelf life for something like a multivitamin is around two years. Robert Dadd, the in-house master herbalist for supplement company Flora Health, said you’re probably OK to take vitamins after the use-by date. However, he noted, you are potentially losing a lot of the product benefits along the way.
The type of vitamin matters as well when you’re looking at expirations.
Things that need to be refrigerated, like probiotics and liquids, are definitely best to toss out after the expiration date has passed, said Cynthia Marie LaBonte, a chemist and owner of Newport Herbal Formulas in Newport, Rhode Island.
“Fish oils or any liquid cap has a hard line as to its expiration date and that expiration date should be heeded, as we check expiration dates on nut butter and vegetable oils,” she said, noting that fish oil can go rancid if used past the suggested date.
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