Right now, with current events in the world, the importance for good health and strong immunity has never been greater.
In terms of being fit and healthy, the basic fundamentals aren’t really that difficult as we need to exercise more, eat healthier, drink more water, avoid junk, and make healthy lifestyle choices.
While there isn’t a substitute for healthy whole foods, a great way of promoting health and wellness and boosting immunity is with the assistance of vitamins and health supplements.
As great as vitamins and supplements are, people often wonder whether you can take expired vitamins, and if so, are they as effective?
Here’s a detailed look at taking expired supplements as we present you with the ultimate guide to expired vitamins.
What are supplements?
To begin with, we’ll get the ball rolling today by looking at what nutritional supplements are.
Basically, in order for the body to function as it is supposed to, it requires a variety of different nutrients, with each one playing a key role in countless physiological processes which take place in the human body.
Whereas the body can produce some of these nutrients, it can’t produce them all, and sometimes the ones it does produce aren’t sufficient enough to be effective.
Other nutrients which cannot be produced naturally, have to come from whole foods, beverages, and dietary sources.
Health supplements, also known as nutritional supplements are designed to provide a concentrated dose of specific nutrients that we either can’t produce, can’t produce enough of, or can’t consume enough of via whole foods and drinks.
Typically, supplements come in the form of:
- Fatty acids
- Protein supplements
- Joint supplements
- Nootropics for cognitive function
- Amino acids
- And more…
Typically, these supplements will either be powdered, liquid, capsules, or in tablet form.
Each one comes in a different strength and dosage, due to the fact that we only need a specific amount of each one for different processes taking place internally.
People assume that the higher the dosage, the more effective the supplement will be but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes, less is more, which is where vitamin supplements prove useful because you know exactly how much you’re consuming with each serving.
People often concern themselves with expired vitamins and worry about taking expired supplements, but are these concerns really valid?
What are vitamins?
We’ve looked briefly at what nutritional supplements are, but what about vitamins?
When people are looking to strengthen and boost the immune system, more often than not the supplements they will take will be vitamins, and for a very good reason.
Vitamins are basically individual compounds which our bodies require in order for them to function properly. We need vitamins for performing numerous physiological processes from synthesizing healthy blood cells, to breathing and metabolizing food and drink.
We can synthesize some nutrients, but the majority of the vitamins we need in our bodies have to come from dietary sources such as whole foods and supplements.
Vitamins are classed as micronutrients, and in total, there are 13 of them. They’re known as micronutrients because, as opposed to macronutrients, which we require in grams, we only require small amounts of vitamins, usually milligrams.
Different vitamins provide different benefits, and function in unique ways. Some vitamins assist with the metabolism and the conversion of food into energy, whereas others help to strengthen the immune system.
Vitamins are also absorbed by the body in different ways. Some are water-soluble which means that they’re digested and absorbed in the presence of water, whereas others are fat soluble, which means that they can only be digested and broken down in the body in the presence of fat.
Important vitamins for a healthy body
Whether your vitamins come from whole foods, or as dietary supplements, it’s essential that you get the right amounts of each one, otherwise you run the risk of a vitamin deficiency, which could leave you susceptible to illness and disease.
While we don’t have the time to talk about every vitamin needed by the body in great detail, we will now take a look at several of the most important vitamins for optimal health and well-being. (7)
Vitamin A is a fat-soluble vitamin that is most commonly associated with the eyes.
Vitamin A is vital for vision because it helps to support what are known as conjunctival membranes, along with the cornea.
As well as that, vitamin A also promotes the production of healthy cells.
You may have heard people talking about carrots helping you to see in the dark, and that’s all about carotenoids, in this case, beta-carotene, which is found in these veggies.
Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A, which, when consumed, is converted into vitamin A in the body. Okay, the carotenoids aren’t actually powerful enough to enable you to see in the dark, but they will promote stronger and healthier vision.
When talking about vitamin supplements, vitamin C is one of the first supplements that instantly springs to mind.
Vitamin C, also known as ascorbic acid, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays an important role in the functioning of the immune system in the human body.
Vitamin C boosts immunity, it promotes the healing of wounds, it promotes strong and healthy tissues, bones, and teeth, and much more besides.
As we are unable to naturally produce vitamin C, we must instead get it from dietary sources such as whole foods and vitamin supplements.
The vitamin also functions as an antioxidant which helps to destroy harmful toxins and unstable molecules known as free-radicals that attack our cells and can destroy them or cause them to mutate and potentially turn cancerous.
The best sources of vitamin C are fresh fruits and vegetables, though vitamin C supplements are also available and very convenient.
There are a number of different B vitamins, including vitamin B3, B6, B9, and B12.
B vitamins are most commonly associated with the metabolism and in the production of energy though they can also assist with the active uptake of other nutrients and minerals, whilst also strengthening the immune system.
B vitamins are found in a variety of foods ranging from red meat and shellfish, to mushrooms and green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin D is also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ due to the fact that, when we are exposed to rays from the sun, our bodies can naturally synthesize this fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin D helps to improve brain function, it improves your mental health, it assists with the production of healthy cells, and it also assists in the absorption of calcium.
Calcium is a mineral which strengthens the teeth and the bones. Without vitamin D, though, any calcium which we consume would simply go to waste, rather than being absorbed directly into the teeth and the bones where it is used to make them stronger.
Along with vitamin D supplements, dietary sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, dairy, and mushrooms.
Despite the singular name, vitamin E is actually a collective term used to describe a group of fat-soluble compounds all renowned for their antioxidant properties.
Like vitamin C, vitamin E also helps to keep the immune system strong and healthy, whilst also helping to promote the production of healthy skin cells and to keep existing cells healthier for longer. In fact, many skincare creams and beauty and cosmetic products contain vitamin E for this very reason.
Along with supplements, vitamin E is also found in whole foods such as nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, and leafy green vegetables.
Is it safe to take expired vitamins?
Right, we’ve looked at the importance of vitamins, and we now know more about what vitamins are and what they do in the body, so now let’s look at whether or not taking expired supplements is in fact detrimental to your health.
When you purchase any product, depending on the country, you’ll find that typically the packaging either has a ‘use by’ date, a ‘best before’ date, or an ‘expiry’ date. This terminology is very important, though we’ll look at why that is a little later on.
In the US, it has been found that as many as 3 in 4 people are now using some form of dietary supplement, such as a vitamin, a probiotic, or a fish oil.
Some people will use these supplements on a daily basis, in conjunction with a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet.
Others may forget they’ve purchased these supps, and will leave them in the cupboard for months on end to gather dust. By the time they remember they’ve still got these supplements, they reach into the cupboard, take them out, only to find that they have in fact expired.
Most people will simply throw the expired vitamins into the trash, but are they perhaps being a bit too hasty?
Now, first and foremost, supplements and vitamins do indeed expire, but not in the same way as food and fresh produce does. When you purchase a pack of meat for example, once it has gone past its expiry date, it will deteriorate more and more, breaking down and turning rancid. Eating the expired meat once it had decayed and turned rancid would leave you violently ill and would be dangerous. Expired vitamins, however, are different.
Because of how they are prepared and because they tend not to contain perishable ingredients, they won’t turn rancid or rotten. Instead, when vitamins expire, all that tends to happen is that they experience nutrient breakdown or degradation. Basically, the vitamins won’t be anywhere near as potent or effective as when they were fresh and so you won’t benefit from taking them anywhere near as much as you would if you took them when fresh.
Put simply, if you were to eat expired meat that was riddled with harmful bacteria and had turned rancid, you’d put your health and life at risk as you would almost certainly become very sick. When it comes to taking expired supplements however, the major downside here is that they won’t be anywhere near as effective or as powerful as they were when they were fresh. (8) (9) (10)
How long are vitamins good for after the expiration date?
Technically speaking, vitamins are safe to consume after they’ve expired, regardless of how far out of date they actually are.
In the US, the FDA doesn’t require for supplements to have an expiration date by law, though manufacturers will provide one just to give customers an idea of when vitamins and supplements will be past their best.
According to experts, the shelf life for a vitamin supplement is around two years. After this point, experts recommend that you discard the product and purchase a new one.
This isn’t due to health risks, but simply due to the fact that the expired vitamins will have lost their potency and the nutrients they provide will not be beneficial for your health and wellbeing.
Can you take supplements after the expiry date?
Remember, when talking about taking expired supplements, it isn’t just vitamins that we need to focus on. There are numerous types of health supplement out there, each one containing different ingredients.
Because of this, we strongly advise against taking supplements after the expiry date. This is because you don’t know what ingredients they contain, and some may indeed contain ingredients that could turn bad, plus they won’t be potent or effective anyways, so you won’t reap the rewards. (11) (12)