Do Vitamins Expire? An Expert's Guide to Vitamin Shelf Life

Vitamins don't “expire” in the traditional sense. Instead of becoming unsafe to ingest, they simply become less potent. This is because most of the ingredients in vitamins and dietary supplements break down gradually, meaning they become less effective over time. Vitamin supplements lose potency over time, but after their expiration date, they generally don't become unsafe to take.

But do multivitamins expire? Let's learn more. Yes, multivitamins expire, but not the way you think. They don't “spoil” like food, but the ingredients break down over time, which decreases their potency. The FDA does not require supplement manufacturers to include an expiration date on their products.

However, some manufacturers, such as Nature Made, voluntarily put the expiration date on the vitamin package. While it probably won't hurt to take expired vitamins, you should throw them away and buy a new container for maximum nutritional potency. Other companies may choose to include a date of manufacture instead. If stored properly, most vitamins have a shelf life of up to two years, says holistic pharmacist Joanna Lewis of PharmD.

That is, they essentially “expire” two years after the date of manufacture. The date stamped on the bottle is important and should be your guide. Regulatory bodies require Nature's Way laboratory teams to validate any expiration date they give to a product, which means that they carry out studies on raw materials and test the product throughout its useful life to ensure its 100% potency on any expiration date that appears on the bottle or box. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require expiration dates for dietary supplements, including vitamins and minerals.

Manufacturers can choose to print them on products and, if so, can be expressed as “expires on”, “best to use” or “use before”. To be on the safe side, you should always check with your healthcare provider to see if you're okay with taking expired vitamins if you need supplements regularly. The bottle that your vitamins or supplements come in was created to ensure their potency and purity, making it the safest place to store them. According to Lewis, vitamins may not be significantly damaged (such as milk, for example), but they will lose their potency.

A number of factors can affect the expiration date of a vitamin, including packaging, storage, ingredients, and composition. While multivitamins are not a substitute for healthy eating, they can serve as nutritional supplements to help with any nutrient deficiencies in the diet. Not only are glass bottles more environmentally friendly than plastic bottles, but they can also better extend the life of vitamins and minerals, specifically amber glass bottles. For example, a person following a vegan diet may need to take a vitamin B-12 supplement regularly to stay healthy.

While a healthy diet and regular exercise can reduce fatigue, some vitamins and supplements can also increase energy. And if you take a vitamin powder, Lewis says the average expiration date is usually up to a year after opening it, but it can vary depending on the brand. How quickly a vitamin expires depends on several factors, some of which are related to manufacturing and others to your own habits. Proper storage means that vitamins are placed away from sunlight, from extremely high temperatures and protected from moisture; your medicine cabinet isn't really ideal.

The expiration date of vitamins may not be as simple as that of foods, but it is important to pay attention to their shelf life to ensure maximum effectiveness and safety. There is no doubt that the body depends on vitamins and minerals in the diet to function at its best; however researchers continue to insist on the effectiveness of taking a pill to improve health. So if you're taking expired vitamins you may not be getting all the nutrients your baby needs for proper development - especially if they already lack certain nutrients in their diet.

Ben Liebhardt
Ben Liebhardt

Amateur travel fanatic. General web buff. Certified travel junkie. Twitter nerd. Infuriatingly humble web practitioner. Certified beer nerd.

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