If you're one of the millions of Americans who take vitamin or mineral supplements, you may have been told that storing nutritional tablets in the refrigerator will keep them fresh, along with extending their shelf life.
Not only is this reasoning incorrect, but every type of supplement does not belong in the cold.
Where to Store Vitamins so They Stay Potent
With more than 90,000 supplements on the market, there's no one-size-fits-all rule as to where to keep each bottle in your home. However, there are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind.
"Generally speaking, the best place to store your supplements is in a cool, dry place," Angie Kuhn, RDN, director of research and nutrition at Persona Nutrition, tells LIVESTRONG.com. The reason: Heat and humidity can alter the chemical makeup of certain vitamin and dietary supplements — a reaction that can decrease their potency and lessen their beneficial properties. In fact, a moisture-rich environment, such as the bathroom, can cause water-soluble vitamins (which include vitamin C, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12) to dissolve, according to Purdue University.
Kuhn suggests storing supplements in your bedroom, but since the kitchen tends to be a more convenient location, she urges to keep the bottles away from the stove, oven, toaster, microwave and dishwasher, as well as any other appliance that would expose them to various amounts of heat.
She also recommends avoiding placing your supplements near a window. "Since some vitamins will lose their potency with light, it's best to place bottles in a dark, airtight container."
Read more: How to Properly Take Vitamins
When to Use the Fridge
In some cases, the refrigerator is the proper location to stockpile supplements. "Liquid vitamins, certain probiotics and other nutrients may require refrigeration to stay fresh," Kuhn says. For example, she explains that while fish oil liquid should be refrigerated, fish oil capsules should be stored in a cool, dark environment.
"The capsule actually prevents oxidative damage from occurring, while the liquid is more exposed, which is why it needs refrigeration," she states.
The Bottom Line
Before choosing a place to store your dietary supplements, be sure to check the product label for directions. Unless the label specifically states that an item belongs in the refrigerator, stow vitamin and mineral capsules, pills and tablets in a cool, dark and moisture-free area. (Perhaps inside a kitchen cabinet that's not above or adjacent to the stove.)
Lastly, Kuhn advises using extra caution when it comes to supplements that are required to be refrigerated.
"Once they've reached their expiration date, throw out those supplements immediately," she says. "There haven't been any reported illnesses or deaths from taking supplements beyond an expired date, but vitamins lose potency over time."