C60 Fullerene “Buckyballs”: The Most Overpriced Supplement on the Market?

C60 Fullerene “Buckyballs”: The Most Overpriced Supplement on the Market?

The anti-aging marketing machine has picked up C60 Fullerene molecule claiming that it will improve memory, decrease recovery time between workouts, increase your lifespan, kill bacteria and viruses, and of course, they must throw in weight loss claims into the mix too, right?  If you have ever looked at the cover of an organic chemistry textbook, you can tell that the molecule is highly fat soluble.  So, how much does a solution of C60 Fullerene and olive oil set you back?  Somewhere in the range of $20 – $60 USD.  So, is it worth it?

History

Although it’s been theorized about since the 1960s, a research team working at Rice University was the first known group to transform graphite into C60 Fullerene.[cite harvard]  It was named for the American architect, Buckminster Fuller where we get the names “buckyball” and “fullerene.”[cite popsci]   The research team claimed that the applications for this molecule were endless, but so far, its only two practical applications have been as a material used in a contract material for MRI and as an anti-aging supplement.[cite researchgate]  It’s been proposed to be used alongside verteporfin (a photodynamic drug used to treat certain cancers) to scavenge free radicals, but the medical community hasn’t shown much interest.[cite pubmed]  C60 Fullerene has also been proposed as a drug delivery system, but given the method of synthesis, and the digestion/metabolism of the compound, it’s unlikely that it will ever have any value in that area.

Research

There is very little research into C60 Fullerene as a beneficial, dietary supplement.  There are two key animal studies that have been used by supplement companies to support a wide array of health claims.  The first study comes from The University of Washington in St. Louis, Missouri and was published in 2006.[cite semantic]  Once the mice were exactly a year old, the researchers started giving mice 10mg of C60 Fullerene for every kilogram of bodyweight to the experiment group, and water with food color to the control group.  They let the mice live out their lives until they died of natural causes.  The mice that were given C60 Fullerene lived an average of 27.5 months, and the mice given water with food coloring, lived an average of 24 months.  They also ran the mice through mazes to see if the compound influenced cognition and found that in the last month of the treated rats’ lives, they tended to go through the maze quicker.  The published that the mice had an 11% increase in lifespan and attributed the compound to all sorts of other health benefits.

The second important study was done in 2012 by the French researcher, Fathi Moussa.[cite sciencedirect] The study produced positive results, in fact, all of the mice that were given C60 fullerene outlived the controlled group.  Because of the findings, Moussa was invited to do interviews and was basically used to help sell the supplement.  In my favorite interview, Moussa was asked if he took C60 Fullerene, and he replied: “no, I do not consume C60 at this time.”

After the publication of Moussa’s article, many people began to point out mistakes in the findings.  Many people have noted that the statistics Moussa used are misleading and that there wasn’t much difference between the olive oil group and the C60 group.  There were also errors in the pictures used for the liver tissue.  Biomaterials issued a corrigendum and the editor claimed that he was unaware of the mistakes before publishing the article.[cite cdn]

How does C60 Fullerene work?

The in vitro studies (done in a test tube) show that C60 can bind the free radicals that damage our health.  Because of its large size, it is able to collect these toxins with a C-C bond so that the positively charged radicle is neutralized by spreading the charge over the C60 Fullerene.  When you take a c60 product, it travels into your gut and absorbs toxins until it becomes saturated with the positive charge, in that, there isn’t enough Gibbs free energy to make a favorable C-C bond, then it passes through the digestive tract.  There is no transport method of getting C60 into your bloodstream, into your brain, into your heart, lungs, or any other organ.  It simply mops up toxins in the gut.

Is C60 worth the money?

C60 Fullerene is a really cool looking molecule appearing like the world’s smallest soccer ball, which gives it a great visual aesthetic to put on an advertisement, but there is nothing magic about it.  It’s just a basic toxin scavenger.  So why am I so critical of this supplement?  C60 was first synthesized from ash, and if you look at other compounds from ash, they look, and behave very similarly to C60, but without the cool soccer ball shape.  In fact, any activated charcoal product that you buy will do the exact same thing.  The two big differences are that you can buy it for a fraction of the price, and activated charcoal is more effective.  Any salesman who disagrees probably went to the George C. Parker school of business in Sing Sing.  C60 isn’t a worthless supplement, it just costs too much to make and there isn’t really anything unique about it other than the shape, which I’ll be the first to admit, looks cool, but toxins don’t really care about how cool a molecule looks.

Do yourself a favor and use activated charcoal instead of C60 Fullerene and save your hard-earned money.  We recommend the Source Natural brand because they have a good reputation for quality control and sell it at a competitive price compared to other quality brands.

What is the most expensive supplement you’ve ever been swindled on?  We would love to hear your story in the comments!

References

1.[footnote harvard] Kroto, H. W., et al. “C(60): Buckminsterfullerene.” Nature, 1 Nov. 1985.

2.[footnote popsci] “Buckyball: The Magic Molecule.” Popular Science, 2 May 2016.

3.[footnote researchgate] Lalwani, Gaurav & Sitharaman, Balaji. (2013). Multifunctional Fullerene- and Metallofullerene-Based Nanobiomaterials. Nano LIFE.

4.[footnote pubmed] Brown, S B, et al. “The present and future role of photodynamic therapy in cancer treatment.” The Lancet. Oncology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2004.

5.[footnote semantic] Quick, K L, et al. “A carboxyfullerene SOD mimetic improves cognition and extends the lifespan of mice.” Neurobiology of aging., U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2008. 

6.[footnote sciencedirect] “The prolongation of the lifespan of rats by repeated oral administration of [60]Fullerene.” Biomaterials, Elsevier, 10 Apr. 2012.

7.[footnote cdn] Baati, Tarek, et al. “Corrigendum to “The prolongation of the lifespan of rats by repeated oral administration of [60]Fullerene” [Biomaterials 33 (2012) 4936–4946].” Science Direct

1 Comment
  1. Clearly, you disagree with the findings in the Baati, et.al. study (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0142961212003237). Here is an excerpt:

    “Whereas C60 particles were not detected in the brain after intratracheal instillation [43], the presence of significant amounts in the brain 24 hours after both oral and i.p. administrations under our experimental conditions (Table 2) confirms that solubilized C60 can cross the blood-brain barrier [25].”

    Regarding your statement that “There is no transport method of getting C60 into your bloodstream, into your brain, into your heart, lungs, or any other organ. It simply mops up toxins in the gut.” … Please elaborate. One of the reasons that C60 is distributed in olive oil is because of its high solubility in that particular PUFA. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15363830902779833) At a mere 40 degrees centigrade, 750 mg of C60 dissolves per liter of olive oil. That temperature is very close to human body temperature and would lead many to believe that under such circumstances, the C60 is adducted to fatty acid molecules and could traverse the but lumen and into the bloodstream via fatty acid transport proteins. Even moreso in the presence of compromised tight gap junction proteins. The Baat study confirms such a hypothesis.

    Further, C60 has been shown, both clinically and anecdotally, to be a powerful SOD2 mimetic. It has been proposed that electron-deficient regions on the C60 molecule electrostatically stabilize superoxide, promoting dismutation, via its interactions with malonyl groups attached to C3. I remember reading an article many years ago that claimed SOD2 mimetic activity of C60 increased expression of MnSOD and increased mouse life span by 300%. There could be errors in their analysis, but the proposed mechanisms seem valid.

    All studies and opinions aside, I would proffer a personal anecdote. I myself have homozygous mutations in SOD2 and while it could be argued that they may not be epigenetically expressed (i.e. due to methylation or histone acetylation), my ROS frequently goes to the roof under certain environmental circumstances and Grapeseed Extract (another SOD mimetic) helps profoundly… via reduction of brain fog, intracranial pressure, and various other symptoms of oxidative stress. Naturally, I was interested to try C60 in olive oil many years ago. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any companies marketing this supplement. I am merely offering an anecdote. The short period of time that I was using C60, it had 10x the effect of Grapeseed extract in mitigating symptoms. Your opinion is that this was because it was mopping up toxins in the gut, but with all due respect, I have never been able to achieve such results with even high doses of activated charcoal. There is very tangible subjective difference (my N=1). Moreover, C60 produced remarkable changes in “energy efficiency”. For example, benchpressing 20% more weight than usual and doubling aerobic activity that would normally leave me quite winded. That is no placebo, I assure you. Such stories are common with this substance.

    I have since tabled experiments with C60 because of the lack of human studies and the grey areas you speak of in the murine examples. Nonetheless, I think it is premature to disregard it entirely, as we clearly do not comprehensively understand what it is doing in the body, and certain evidence would suggest that it can have systemic effects, outside the gut. Yes, a permeable gut and / or brain barrier can allow a wide array of molecules to have an effect that would not otherwise. I still intuit that we are not seeing the whole picture.

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