Take or Toss: Do Supplements Expire?

So you’ve cleaned out your medicine cabinet and unearthed those supplements you had completely forgotten about. Or maybe you found a great deal on supplements online at a huge discount. Heads up: They may be expired. And while it may be safe to take them, you may not be getting the full benefits of the supplements.

Today, we’re addressing the age-old question “To take or not to take?” as it applies in the vitamin and supplement world, and we’ll share advice from experts on just what to do with any expired supplements you come across. 

Is it Safe to Take Expired Vitamins & Supplements?

In general, it’s considered safe to take expired vitamins and supplements, since most of these products, when expired, usually do not become toxic. However, you should never take any supplements that show signs of mold or have a strange odor—these should be disposed of safely.

But there’s a catch: While experts agree that taking a supplement past its prime is generally safe, they do start to break down and lose their potency after they expire. So those who rely on supplementation to counteract deficiencies, such as osteoporosis or malabsorption due to GI dysfunction, or women who are pregnant or trying to conceive, should take caution to use supplements within their recommended timeframe in order to get the full benefits of the ingredients.

How Long do Vitamins & Supplements Last?

How long supplements last depends on ingredients, delivery method and how they’re being stored. For instance, gummies, chews and liquids break down a lot faster than pills, powders and tablets. If you find that you’re not able to use up your supplements before they expire, try purchasing a smaller quantity, more frequently, so you’re not throwing money away when you have to toss expired products. 

Unopened supplements and vitamins are more likely to retain their potency because moisture, light and oxygen are less likely to affect them.

How to Store Vitamins & Supplements

To get the most out of your vitamins and supplements, be sure to store them in their original containers, and away from environmental factors like sunlight, humidity, water and air. Whenever possible, store your bottles in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. To reduce exposure to heat and humidity, it’s advisable to keep supplements out of the kitchen and bathroom, too—especially in smaller spaces.

Keep in mind that storage instructions will vary between supplements, so always check the bottle and follow the manufacturers recommendations.

How to Dispose of Expired Vitamins & Supplements

If you come across expired vitamins and supplements, it’s important to dispose of them responsibly. Improper disposal of these products increases the risk of children or animals consuming them, which could have negative consequences.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the following steps for proper disposal of vitamins, supplements and medications:

  1. Remove the pills from the original container.
  2. Place the vitamins in a disposable container or bag with coffee grinds, cat litter or another undesirable substance. When they’re mixed with these, curious children or pets are less likely to find them in the trash.
  3. Close the container or seal the bag.
  4. Place the entire container/bag in the trash.

To avoid purchasing products that are being sold close to or after their expiration date, try purchasing directly from the manufacturer whenever possible. That’s where you will find the freshest product, as discounted retailers or sellers on auction websites often sit on large amounts of product for long periods of time, which means you’re getting a subpar product that’s either almost or completely expired—and not as effective.

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