Do Multivitamins Expire?

May 02, 2022 Vitamins & Supplements

Do Multivitamins Expire?

Quick Health Scoop

  • Multivitamins expire in the sense that they lose their potency over time.
  • Depending on the type of vitamin (gummies, tablets, chewables) and how they’re stored, supplements typically have a two-year shelf life.
  • Although the FDA does not mandate manufacturers to include an expiration date on their supplements, some do so voluntarily.
  • While it probably won’t harm you if you take expired supplements, you should throw them away and purchase new vitamins for maximum nutrient potency.

If you’re like many health-conscious people, you probably own a bottle of multivitamins and maybe even additional dietary supplements (like Fish Oil, a Probiotic, and a mineral supplement like Calcium). Multivitamins may help support a variety of health benefits such as a healthy immune system, healthy eyes and vision, heart health, as well as supporting healthy hair, skin, and nails.

While multivitamins don’t replace healthy eating, they can serve as nutritional supplements to help with any nutrient gaps in the diet. Remember, your body needs 13 essential vitamins (categorized as fat-soluble and water-soluble) and at least 15 minerals essential to your health, including Vitamin A, all the B Vitamins (including Folic Acid), Vitamin C, Vitamin D, Vitamin E, and Vitamin K. [1]

You might store multivitamin supplements on your kitchen counter or in your bathroom medicine cabinet. After all, placing supplements where you go about your daily routines instills the habit of taking your vitamins every day. The best place to store vitamins is in a cool, dry place, ensuring they’re not in sun or heat. [2] Why? Because heat could affect the quality of the product. And make sure you store vitamins in their original container since the label includes the ingredients, dosage, interactions, and other important information.

But do multivitamins expire? Let’s learn more.  

How Do I Know When Multivitamins Are Expired?

If you pick up any food container or medication bottle in your house, you know to immediately look at the product’s expiration date to determine if food is still okay to eat or medicine is still safe to take. That’s because the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires such labeling. But dietary supplements are treated a little differently. Know that the FDA regulates dietary supplements as food, not as drugs. [3] However, the FDA does not require supplement manufacturers to include an expiration date on their products. [4]

While the FDA doesn’t test supplements for quality, trusted manufacturers turn to one of these third-party organizations to be independently tested for quality and earn their seal of approval: [2]

  • S. Pharmacopeia (USP)
  • com
  • NSF International

As part of this approval process, “USP requires participants to provide expiration date information and tests the product to ensure it will contain the claimed potency at the date specified.” [5] If supplement manufacturers have data that supports their date claim, they often put an expiration date on their product label. [4]

Look for words such as “Expiration Date,” “Best Before,” or “Use By” on the vitamin container. In a New York Times article ConsumerLab.com's president, Tod Cooperman, M.D. explains, “If you see some type of expiration date, the manufacturer is legally required to have stability data demonstrating the product will still have 100 percent of its listed ingredients until that date.” [6]

What’s the typical shelf life for vitamin supplements? Although it can vary depending on the type of vitamin and how they’re stored, vitamins typically last two years. [7] For example, if stored correctly, tablet vitamins often remain potent for several years, while gummy vitamins

and chewable vitamins tend to degrade quicker because they absorb more moisture. [7] 

But... is it safe to take supplements after the expiration date? Let’s find out.

Is It Safe to Take Expired Multivitamins?

If you have taken an expired multivitamin supplement, you might wonder, “Can I take vitamins after the expiration date?” In other words, if you take an expired supplement, will it make you ill or cause you harm? Vitamins don’t go “bad” like a spoiled carton of milk. They also don’t become toxic or poisonous. [7] Instead, they simply lose their effectiveness over time.

When you’re buying multivitamin supplements, check the expiration dates to make sure they don’t expire close to the date of purchase. If you have any supplements at home, check their expiration date. If they’re past their expiration date, throw them out, as these products can lose potency. [4] As an example, if the supplement states it contains 100% daily value of Vitamin B12, it might contain less than 100% if it’s months past its expiration date. So, if you’re thinking you’re getting the recommended daily value of that nutrient, you might not be if you’re taking an expired supplement.

Making sure you get  essential nutrients is important for everyone, but especially for women who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Women who take prenatal vitamins want to ensure they’re meeting not only their nutritional needs, but those of their developing baby. You should not take expired prenatal vitamins. Instead, discard prenatal vitamins if they’ve expired and purchase a fresh container of prenatal vitamins to ensure nutrient potency.

For more details about multivitamin supplements, check out the fact sheets for multivitamin/mineral supplements  available from the National Institutes of Health. [8]

Bottom Line

Do multivitamins expire? Yes, but not in the way you think. They don’t “go bad” like food, but the  ingredients do break down over time, which decreases their potency. The FDA does not require supplement manufacturers to include an expiration date on their products. But some manufacturers, like Nature Made, voluntarily put the expiration date on the vitamin container. While it likely won’t harm you if you take expired vitamins, you should throw them away and purchase a fresh container for maximum nutrient potency.

 

Continue to check back on the Nature Made blog for the latest science-backed articles to help you take ownership of your health.

These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References 

  1. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health. “Vitamins and Mineral” February 2018. Accessed on: April 19, 2022. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/vitamins-and-minerals
  2. UC San Diego Health. “Vitamin and Mineral Supplement” December 1, 2021. Accessed on: April 19, 2022. https://myhealth.ucsd.edu/RelatedItems/3,84526 
  3. S. Food & Drug Administration. “Dietary supplements.” February 18, 2022. Accessed on: April 19, 2022. https://www.fda.gov/food/dietary-supplements
  4. NSF International. “Supplement Frequently Asked Questions.” 2022. Accessed on: April 20, 2022. https://www.nsf.org/blog/consumer/supplement-frequently-asked-questions
  5. United States Pharmacopeia. “How to Read a Supplement” 2022. Accessed on: April 19, 2022. https://www.quality-supplements.org/resources/resource-gallery-factsheet
  6. The New York Times. “Ask Well: Vitamin Expiration Dates.” July 20, 2015. Accessed on: April 20, 2022. https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/07/20/ask-well-vitamin-expiration-dates
  7. “Do Vitamins Expire?” September 29, 2018. Accessed on: April 20, 2022. https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/do-vitamins-expire#average-shelf-life
  8. National Institutes of Health. “Multivitamin/mineral Supplements: Fact Sheet for Consumers.” February 1, 2022. Accessed on: April 20, 2022. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/MVMS-Consumer/

Authors

Lisa Beach

NatureMade Contributor

Lisa Beach is a seasoned journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, Eating Well, Parents, AARP’s Disrupt Aging, Optimum Wellness, and dozens more. She also writes for a variety of health/wellness-focused brands. Check out her writer’s website at www.LisaBeachWrites.com.

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Lynn M. Laboranti, RD

Science and Health Educator

Lynn is a Registered Dietitian (R.D.) and is a member of the Medical and Scientific Communications team at Pharmavite. She has over 20 years of experience in integrative and functional nutrition and has given lectures to health professionals and consumers on nutrition, dietary supplements and related health issues. Lynn frequently conducts employee trainings on various nutrition topics in addition to educating retail partners on vitamins, minerals and supplements. Lynn has previous clinical dietitian expertise in both acute and long-term care, as well as nutrition counseling for weight management, diabetes, and sports nutrition. Lynn earned a bachelor’s of science in Nutrition with a minor in Kinesiology/Exercise Science from The Pennsylvania State University. She earned a M.S. degree in Human Nutrition from Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Lynn is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Sports Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionists, Dietitians in Functional Medicine, and holds a certification in Integrative and Functional Nutrition through the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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