Can You Take Expired Vitamins and Supplements?

Posted On Jul 31, 2017 By Erin Kuh, MBA, RD

Can You Take Expired Vitamins and Supplements?

It's generally recommended to throw out old medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, once the expiration date has past, but what about vitamins, supplements, and protein powders? Do the same rules apply or can you bend them a little?

The answer is: The rules are different all the way around for vitamins and supplements because they don't fall under the same laws and regulations that medications do for labeling and expiration dates. If you find a "best by" or "use by" date on your vitamin bottle, this is completely voluntary by the manufacturer, but it can be trusted because they have to guarantee quality up through the "use by" date.

If you can't find a "use by" date, the general rule of thumb for most vitamins and supplements is a two-year shelf life. After this, they don't become unsafe but just less potent and lose some of their potential health benefits.

As for certain more delicate vitamins like vitamin B12 and C, which can be destroyed by exposure to light and heat, it's important to store them away from light, heat, and humidity. For even more fragile supplements such as probiotics and omega-3 fish oils, they should be used within one year of being purchased and if you're taking them regularly (as everyone should be taking omega-3 fish oil) they shouldn't last anywhere near that long! To be on the safe side, I recommend always storing probiotics in the fridge and fish oil in the fridge or freezer, even if the bottle doesn't instruct too. If your fish oil tastes fishy or off, this either means it's a low-quality fish oil or it's gone rancid. Definitely throw it out at this point.

Moving onto protein powders, you don't need to worry about protein powders "going bad" unless it's more than a year past the "best by" date or if you taste or smell anything off. Just like vitamins and supplements, store protein powder in a cool dry place to maintain quality and flavor for as long as possible.

In summary, read the labels and instructions, store all supplements in a cool dry place, and throw out when in doubt!

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