There will definitely be a date marked on the label of your supplement. But do you know what it really means?
It is normally a best before date (BBD), indicating the limit of its period of optimum efficacy . Up to this date, the product will still retain all its physical, organoleptic (eg, taste, color, odor and feel), and biochemical properties.
So it is not, strictly speaking, a use by date (UBD) which is the date beyond which a product should not be consumed in order to avoid any risk to health.
If your supplement expired just a few days or weeks ago, there is no need to put it straight in the bin. As explained, the date indicated does not relate to its safety. At worst, your product will have a reduced effect but it will not pose a risk to your health: generally speaking, supplements (with the exception of probiotics) can actually be taken as much as 3-6 months after their BBD.
Nonetheless, it pays to remain vigilant. As with foodstuffs, trust your instincts when it comes to spotting any unwelcome microbial growth. If you see any sign of mould on your vitamins, or notice an odd smell coming from the jar or pot – chuck it!
A dietary supplement’s stability will vary somewhat depending on its composition or delivery method. Various parameters intrinsic to the product may require a greater degree of compliance with the date stipulated by the manufacturer:
Over time, certain vitamins degrade faster than others and lose their potency. Therefore, once the expiry date has passed, it is best to replace them quickly to ensure their health benefits remain optimal.
Vitamin C (present in Triple C, an excellent, synergistic trio of ascorbic acid, calcium ascorbate and ascorbic palmitate) and vitamin B1 or thiamine (present in Benfotiamine, a highly-available source of thiamine) are particularly subject to deliquescence : by dint of opening the container every day, they partially dissolve on exposure to humidity. So it makes sense to keep them in a cool, dry place! (3)
Another delicate substance is vitamin K (the ingredient in Complete K, a cutting-edge complex combining the 3 best forms of vitamin K).
As mentioned above, take extra care with microbiotic supplements (such as Colon Friendly, Lactobacillus reuteri and Derma Relief, all of which provide invaluable support to gut flora) which are live organisms: while they keep well in the fridge, it’s best to get rid of them once they’ve passed their expiry date (4).
When it comes to pregnancy, don’t take any chances! When a health professional advises a pregnant woman to take supplements, it’s because it‘s necessary in order to meet herbasic needs and those of her fetus (5).
We’re talking in particular about folate (vitamin B9) which supports maternal tissue growth during pregnancy(6). In most of Europe, supplementation is routinely recommended before conception and during the first weeks of pregnancy. In this particular case, reduced efficacy is not an option: if it’s expired, throw it away!
If you’re tempted to take them back to the pharmacy, remember that dietary supplements are not drugs: they, like personal care products, will not be collected.
You can therefore throw them away… making sure you follow these rules: the supplements themselves go in with the household waste (usually a black bin), while the plastic containers and cardboard packaging go into their respective recycling bins (usually red for plastic and blue for cardboard).
Avoid pouring any liquid supplements down the drain in order to protect drinking water supplies. Instead, follow the advice of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to dispose of any such out of date vitamins, minerals and the like, in the proper manner:
Although most supplements can be taken beyond their expiry date without any risk, they will undoubtedly not deliver their maximum potential. And if you’ve made the choice to take a supplement, it’s primarily because you want to obtain its benefits: it’s therefore highly advisable to go through your supplements regularly and replace any that are well past their date with new ones. Spring cleaning should also apply to supplements from time to time!
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