So You Took Expired Vitamin Supplements? Is It Safe?

I’ve been popping up vitamin supplements ever since i can remember, more so religiously when i got active into running. Like many other athletes, i take these supplements to aid in improving my health, ward-off potential diseases and to get those vital nutrients that may be lacking in my regular diet, which is often the case.

My supplements ranges from multivitamins, Vitamin-E, B-Complex, Omega-3, Fiber capsules, Ascorbic Acid, Iron to Malunggay and other herbal supplements. I know i have dietary deficiencies so i try to compensate by taking specific supplements like Omega-3 (we rarely eat fish at home) and B-Complex to combat the hang-overs once in a while.:-)  On others days, i just take a multivitamin.

Last week, while browsing on pieces of these supplements contained in their aluminum foil-like packaging, i noticed the date that was embossed at the back cover which read: E-May 2012 which meant that the pill had expired last May! Ugh! I had been taking this supplement since last year and i didn’t notice that it has expired 2 months ago.

So, is it safe to take expired vitamins? The answers seem to be on the affirmative side. Taking expired multivitamins may not cause any harm, however as vitamins expire, they lose potency making them less effective. I asked my doctor brother who has been giving me samples of multivitamin supplements if it was safe and he himself admitted that has been taking them regularly only to find out they they have already expired.

Here’s what Doctors at the livestrong website has to say about expired vitamins:

The expiration date on vitamins, supplements and drugs covers the amount of time that the manufacturer can guarantee the product’s safety and full potency, according to the Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide. Such dates are determined very conservatively so that vitamins and other products do not automatically become unsafe or lose their effect when the designated date passes. Often they remain good to use for months or even years after expiration, although there is no quick way for a consumer to judge their potency.

Vitamin manufacturers tend to be very conservative when putting expiration dates on their products, so you may still get full potency for months, or even years, after your pills expire. Expiration dates take potential shipping and stocking delays into account, and some companies give their products extra potency to account for any loss that happens on the way to store shelves. Many vitamins retain their full strength for up to five years, although two years is generally a safe time frame for full potency.

And from the jigsawhealth website:

Uncovering the Mystery of Expiration Dates

First, let’s start by explaining what the expiration date actually is.

The expiration date is the last day an item will be at its highest level of potency. This means that the manufacturer can successfully guarantee the quality of a product up until the expiration date. A quality manufacturer will ensure that their vitamins are at the listed strength on the label at the time of expiration. If the manufacturer does not list an expiration date, then they are liable for the listed strength for the entire time the product is in circulation.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require supplements to have expiration dates. However, quality manufacturers voluntarily list expiration dates because it is to their benefit. They test their vitamins rigorously to make sure they can successfully guarantee the label strength up until the expiration date.

So ultimately, just because a product reaches it’s expiration date, that doesn’t mean it’s no longer any good; it only means that label strength may be lost over time.

Expiration dates are extremely conservative. All vitamins start to break down the day they are manufactured. Vitamins deteriorate at different rates, so manufacturers will beef up the strength of some vitamins that tend to deteriorate faster, in order to hit the listed strength at the time of expiration.

If you were to purchase vitamins on the day they’re manufactured, in some cases you’re actually getting a higher strength than what’s listed on the label (to allow for deterioration over time). Many expiration dates are also padded to factor in such things as shelf time and shipping time.

Vitamin manufacturers expect that their vitamins will spend some time traveling to their warehouse destination, then spend some time on stores shelves, before arriving in the customer’s hands. Vitamin strength and expiration dates are carefully coordinated to guarantee the listed label strength up until the day of expiration.

Beyond the Expiration Date

Stored properly, vitamins can last four or five years, although the conservative recommendation is that they can easily last two years. Taking vitamins beyond their expiration date is generally safe. The only difference is that you may lose potency over time, so taking extremely old vitamins may not give you the desired results that you’re trying to achieve. But in case you have doubts, some vitamins have been known to last 10 years or longer without losing their label strength. (

So there. Also, according to a 1981 New York Times article, if you store vitamins properly like a dark storage space, such as a closet where you store linens, towels and clothing, they’re usually good for between four and five years.

Personally, just to be on the safe side, i usually discard vitamins that have already expired specially those contained in bottles as condensation regularly occurs here. But those that are packaged in aluminum foils are generally safe to take even beyond their expiry dates.
So for my Unilab supplements that have expired 2 months ago?… you are safe!

Something Fishy

It’s been 3 months since i’ve last had any long, purposeful run and i really miss those Sunday LSD (Long, steady distance) jaunts that takes me and my running friends 3 to 4 hours of running to prepare for marathons or half-marathon races.

Tonette and Betty

The AKTV 10k Run last Sunday was a great motivator for me so i did a 17k run yesterday morning inside the Ateneo and UP campuses and with the rains pouring non-stop, it felt great experiencing the runner’s high once again which i sorely missed. Even before Sunday’s race, i did another 15 k’er just to test my endurance and ended up the run inside the Meralco compound in Ortigas to meet regulars Betty and Tonnete.

My heel spur acts up a bit during these long runs but not enough to slow me down or cut short the distance i’m scheduled to do. Right now, i’m able to do a couple of stride- outs of not less than 100 meters each and planning to run tempos again soon. Still, i’m maintaining a base-building program and intend to do this for another 3 weeks before moving on to speed and repetition runs.

Look what i have! Last Sunday too, i got another boost when Betty gifted me with one big bottle of Fish Oil Softgel supplements (thanks, Betty!) The capsules are as large as jelly beans and they’re know to have many health benefits. I’ve read of injured elite athletes pop-up this supplement to help eliminate joint pains and relieve chronic inflammation in the body.

The word is that Fish Oil which contains the Omega 3 fatty acids may improve over-all health, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, ward of heart disease, eases depression and even hasten recovery from athletic injuries.

I take multivitamins on a daily basis and although we’re often been told that having a complete balanced diet would provide 100% of your dietary requirements, we may still find our foods lacking in several vital nutrients so taking a supplement or two might fill up the void as an insurance.

It may not make you a superman but i believe in can provide a boost to stimulate and support our training and our diet system .

See you at the races!:-)

Should You Be Taking Vitamin Supplements?

One of the topics discussed at the recent Sports Science Initiative Seminar i attended last April (here) is if Vitamin Supplements could improve sports performance. Athletes gulp vitamins in tremendous quantities but most of the findings from the nutrition experts in sports tell us that only a small percentage of athletes notice any benefits of vitamin supplements on their health or sports performance.

I myself take them regularly, swigging in a capsule of multi-vitamin and another tablet of Vitamin B-Complex. So, questions about their viability still  linger like, is it ok to take vitamin supplements as an insurance policy, in case your diet does not supply sufficient vitamins? Are there negative effects if you take too many vitamins? Are synthetic vitamin pills just as good as vitamins from natural foods?

So here are questions and answers that were provided by the nutrition panelists that form part of a study of the Gatorade Sports Science Institute:

A.   Is it possible that my normal diet contains too few vitamins?

It is unlikely that you are consuming too few vitamins UNLESS:

  • You are restricting your calorie intake (dieting) to lose body weight
  • You have unusual eating habits such as eating too much fast food
  • You tend to eat on the run, consuming snacks and other junk food low in vitamin content
  • You eat less than five servings per day of fruits and vegetables
  • You smoke and drink too much alcohol
  • You have a disease, e.g. pernicious anemia, that reduces absorption or metabolism of vitamins

If you do have insufficient vitamin intake in your diet, the vitamin shortages are most likely for:

  • Some of the B-complex vitamins–thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B-12 (vegetarians only), and specially vitamin B-6 and folate (folic acid, folacin).
  • The antioxidant vitamins–vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene.

B.   How can I know for certain that i have a vitamin deficiency?

  • The first step is to ask a dietitian to provide an analysis of your normal nutrient intake. If you consistently consume lower than recommended amounts of a vitamin or vitamins, you could have a vitamin deficiency. However, this does not prove a deficiency because some people need less than others.
  • The next step is to have a blood test to determine the amount and functional activity of vitamins stored in your body.
  • Final confirmation of a vitamin deficiency would be the appearance of clinical symptoms such as cracks in the corners of your mouth which suggest a riboflavin deficiency. Unfortunately, many of these clinical symptoms require a long time to develop.

C.   If i suspect that i have vitamin deficiency, what should i do about it?

  • You should correct deficiencies in vitamin intake by correcting your diet. getting vitamins from normal foods is better than getting them from supplements because normal foods contain extra nutrients–phytochemicals–that supplements do not contain.
  • Avoid diets that place too heavy an emphasis on any one nutrient, e.g. too much carbohydrates or too much protein, that leads to insufficient intake of vitamin-rich foods.
  • Get help from a dietitian or nutritionist to make sure your diet contains five servings daily of fruit and vegetables and that your diet contains sufficient whole grains, lean meat and dairy products. (if you are a vegetarian, a dietitian can modify your diet to compensate for the absence of meat and dairy products.) If you follow this advice, your diet should be adequate in vitamins and minerals.

D.   Just for insurance, is it OK if i take a daily vitamin supplement?

  • Although it is unlikely that you need such a supplement, it probably will not cause any harm, as long as the supplement contains no more than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or Adequate Intake (AI) for vitamins on a daily basis. But remember, if you rely on the supplement for your vitamins, you could be missing out on other important nutrients in normal foods.
  • If you want a “vitamin-insurance policy,” many experts recommend that you only take a multi-vitamin pill every two or three days, not every day. This strategy would minimize the possibility that you might get an overdose of one or more vitamins.

E.   Under what conditions might i consume an overdose of vitamins?

  • If you consume more than the RDA or Upper Limit of vitamin supplements on a regular basis.
  • If you eat many servings of vitamin-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals that contain 100% of the RDA for vitamins and minerals in each serving.

F.   Will vitamin supplements improve my athletic performance?

  • Experts agree that vitamin supplements will improve performance only if the athlete has an existing vitamin deficiency. As indicated earlier, such a deficiency is not common.
  • If you do not have a vitamin deficiency, vitamin supplements will do nothing to improve your performance and will be a waste of money.