Expired Supplements:
How to Know
When to Throw

How do you know your supplements have expired? Are they potent after the expiration date? Would they still be beneficial to use? I was wondering, so I began to search out the answer. My thanks to M. E. Woltjer, Ph.D., for the following article!

A general, rule-of-thumb is that most expired supplements, vitamins, and minerals are safe, unless the nutrient is a sensitive one or in liquid form. Examples of sensitive nutrients are

  • Vitamin E
  • Oils, and
  • Fats stored in pills, capsules or bottles.

Some may lose potency over time, but most multi-vitamins will last years after the expiration date. Minerals will almost last forever if stored properly. But fats and liquid supplements are different because they can be oxidized and affected by light.


Something fatty or raw, like Vitamin E, may just become less potent over time; but if your vitamins or supplements are in liquid form, do not take a risk of using them if over two or three years past their expiration date. The pill or capsule forms of multi-vitamins that contain no fats or sensitive substances have a very long shelf life so the expiration date on these is of little importance.

Smart Storage Tips

All medications, vitamins and minerals last longer if they are stored in an area where the temperature and humidity levels remain relatively constant. Unfortunately, most of us store our drugs either in the kitchen or the bathroom where they will be exposed to the most fluctuation. It would be better to store drugs in either the refrigerator or the bedroom where conditions remain fairly constant.

Scientific Findings

The relatively few studies that have been done on the topic of drug shelf life conclude that there is little scientific evidence that expired drugs are toxic. And, depending on the medication, some remained effective anywhere from 1.5 years to 25 years past the discard date.

One of the largest studies was conducted by the US military in 1985 because every two to three years they had to destroy and replace over $1 billion worth of unused drugs. They conducted a test that included more than 100 drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter. The results showed that about 90% of them were safe and effective as far as 15 years past their original expiration date. According to one former FDA expiration-date compliance chief, the most notable exceptions are drugs such as

  • insulin,
  • nitroglycerin, and
  • some liquid antibiotics

  • ...these should not be taken past their expiration dates.

And, as a General Rule...

The above being said, expiration dates provide a guide for all drugs and vitamins because contents start to age or break down the day after they are manufactured. Not all substances deteriorate at the same speed. A quality manufacturer will be sure their vitamins are approximately at the listed strength on the label at time of expiration. We suggest that you follow manufacturer guidelines for the best results when using supplements.

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