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Dietary supplements: What happens when they age?

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Have you ever used a supplement beyond its expiration date? If so, you're not alone. The use by date is intended to be the the last date at which a product is considered to be safe and maintain its full potency as outlined on the label. After this date, the product may start degrading.

Almost all food and supplement manufacturers are worried about their products going bad soon after they have been produced. To prevent this from happening, they often times add preservatives that will extend the use by date of the product.

Quality dietary supplements should at all times be manufactured under stringent guidelines. They fall in a category that lies in between the food and pharmaceutical industries. Quality control organizations do suggest that all supplements should clearly specify a use by date on their product label. The manufacturer should be able to assure consumers that the product will retain the quality as well as efficacy of the ingredients stated on the label until the use by date is reached.

Dietary supplements contain active ingredients. Active ingredients are the ingredients in a supplement that provide real-time value to your body. In comparison, inactive ingredients are fillers that add to the cost and bulk of the product but are not with associated with any physical benefit.

Vitamins and minerals are considered active ingredients because they can lose their potency over an extended period of time - especially beyond the expiration date.

Dietary supplements may also lose nutritional value due to enzymatic or oxidation reactions between the ingredients. Oxidation occurs when the ingredients are exposed to the air around them. Vitamin D is has a quicker oxidation rate compared to other vitamins. Vitamin C is also a vitamin that oxidizes on contact with oxygen.

Amino acids also deteriorate over time. Most supplements are available in tablet, liquid, powder or capsule form. Those supplements that are in liquid form tend to have shorter use by periods compared to tablets. Over time, liquids undergo a process called sedimentation. This means small particles begin to settle and separate from the primary solution.

It's suggested that you use your dietary supplement by the expiration date and keep them in a cool, dry location within your home or office. Don't discard the small packet of material that's been included as it will help eliminate moisture from entering the product.

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