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Vitamin + Supplement Tips: Buy & Store

Attaining vitamins and minerals from nutritious foods is obviously the best dietary strategy, but knowing how much is in your food is often difficult for the average consumer.  The nutrient content in food is dependent on so many factors (soil quality, growing conditions, storage methods, food preparation, etc) that taking vitamin and mineral supplements can give you peace of mind and may help you to avoid any deficiency.  However, nutritional supplements come in a variety of forms, mainly pills and liquids, and they have different potencies and “shelf lives.”  Knowing how to buy and store vitamin and mineral supplements can save you a significant amount of money.

How long do liquid vitamin supplements retain their potency if I were to buy large quantities on sale?

Expiration dates on vitamin supplements are not the same as on food labels.  Expiration dates on food are meant to keep you from eating spoiled food that may make you sick.  In contrast, expiration dates on vitamin supplements are “supposed” to give you a guideline for when the potency of the supplement “may” start to decline.  However, by law, unopened vitamin supplements stored in the recommended manner have to retain their full potency for at least a year past their expiration dates.

In terms of liquid vitamin supplements, expiry dates are usually a year or so from purchase, but if you don’t open the bottle, they should last at least two years.  It also depends on the type of liquid vitamin supplement.  Big bottles of liquid multi-vitamins (usually combined with colloidal minerals) may lose their potency quicker than individual liquid capsules of vitamin A, D or E, but it depends if there are preservatives in the bottle.  It also depends how quickly you use the bottle.  If you buy large quantities on sale, getting the liquid capsules is probably better because you can divide them into smaller portions and freeze them, which can extend their shelf lives.  In general, fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K) are susceptible to spoiling and turning rancid from oxidation, whereas water-soluble types (C and the eight different B-vitamins) are usually much slower to lose potency.

Where is the best place to store vitamins?

The best place to store liquid vitamins of all types is in a dark bottle in the refrigerator.  Heat, oxygen and sunlight all act to destroy vitamins and reduce their potency.  Humidity is also a factor, so care should be taken not to leave the fridge door open too long or the vitamin bottle on the countertop too long.  If you bought lots of vitamin capsules on sale, then you can keep at least six months’ worth in a dark cupboard and put the rest in the freezer.  According to research on foods, vitamin C is most compromised by being frozen and vitamin E may be somewhat affected too, although it depends if the source is natural or synthetic.

Vitamin pills are more stable than liquids and less susceptible to oxidation and rancidity.  However, if you bought a bunch on sale, keeping them out of the heat, sunlight and humidity is also important for long-term storage. Storing then in an air-tight container in a dry and cool place is the best strategy.

How long do vitamin pills retain their potency if I were to buy large quantities on sale?

In general, vitamin pills have longer expiry dates than capsules or liquids, often two years longer. However, it’s important to note that expiry dates on vitamins and minerals are often more related to selling product than ensuring potency.  Putting a shorter expiry date on a big bottle of vitamins often ensures that it will be consumed faster or thrown out shortly after the date, which leads to more sales in the long-run.  Hard-coated vitamin pills contain more binders and stabilizers, which tend to last much longer, whereas powdered capsules without any additional additives typically have shorter shelf lives.

Is it best to buy vitamins in small quantities for potency and freshness (and thus absorption) or is it ok to buy in the largest quantity possible to save money?

Well, this depends on your pocket book, but it’s probably best to buy fat-soluble vitamins in capsules or liquid and no more than a 6-month supply just to ensure the most potency and freshness.  For water-soluble vitamins, consider buying powder in capsules with the least number of additives, and you can safely buy up to a year in advance.  If you need to be frugal, consider buying vitamins that are just about to expire, because you most likely have at least another year before their potency declines any significant amount.

 

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Comments

  1. Dear Auto Immune Mom,
    I hope this isn’t a dumb question, but will vitamins and supplements spoil in the hot car? I have put them in the trunk, then forgot about them, for a few hours. Please advise. Thanks.

  2. Also: vitamins and supplements can be bought online, and shipped to the customer. Again, they would get hot during the summer months. Any danger of spoilage there? Thanks.

    • Hi,

      I have the same question as posted by Earl. I would appreciate your feedback in regards to the heat related damage during shipment. I have heard some companies have their supplements refrigerated during shipping, but mostly don’t do it. Also how would we know if the supplements have been kept refrigated during the shipping process.

      Thanks

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