Buckminsterfullerene, also known as C60, is a remarkable molecule with a range of interesting chemical and physical properties. Several years ago, C60 came to the attention of the longevity community several years ago when a study with a small cohort of rats found that C60 dissolved in olive oil extended their lifespan . This led to some people in the community purchasing and using C60 supplements despite a lack of safety and efficacy data and even a study showing harmful effects in mouse embryos .
A team led by researchers at Ichor Therapeutics has recently evaluated several commercially available C60 supplements to determine whether the contents match the label . They also went a step further and investigated whether pristine C60 prepared in-house had any effect on lifespan. Their findings not only raise concerns about available C60 supplements, they also undermine the rationale for using them in the first place.
The team began by obtaining C60 supplements form a range of online vendors and measuring their purity and concentration. They found that the samples were tainted with impurities and that the C60 concentrations were quite variable and generally inconsistent with the stated concentration. Hopeful consumers were thus paying for an unidentified mix of chemicals with variable amounts of the molecule they were actually trying to get.
The team then investigated whether the consumers would have been better off if they had gotten high-quality C60. They synthesized pristine C60 in their lab and measured what happened to it during storage in various conditions. The samples degraded when exposed to light regardless of whether they were stored in opened or sealed flasks. More troubling, the analysis revealed that after being stored for more than two days, C60 dissolved in olive oil degrades into other compounds that proved toxic to mice.
Finally, the researchers tested whether pristine C60 in olive oil (or extra virgin olive oil) could extend the lifespan of healthspan of mice. In experiments with injected or ingested C60, they didn’t find any significant benefits for the mice, regardless of whether the treatment was started when they were adults or older.
C60 is a potent antioxidant that has been reported to substantially extend the lifespan of rodents when formulated in olive oil (C60-OO) or extra virgin olive oil (C60-EVOO). Despite there being no regulated form of C60-OO, people have begun obtaining it from online sources and dosing it to themselves or their pets, presumably with the assumption of safety and efficacy. In this study, we obtain C60-OO from a sample of online vendors, and find marked discrepancies in appearance, impurity profile, concentration, and activity relative to pristine C60-OO formulated in-house. We additionally find that pristine C60-OO causes no acute toxicity in a rodent model but does form toxic species that can cause significant morbidity and mortality in mice in under 2 weeks when exposed to light levels consistent with ambient light. Intraperitoneal injections of C60-OO did not affect the lifespan of CB6F1 female mice. Finally, we conduct a lifespan and health span study in males and females C57BL/6 J mice comparing oral treatment with pristine C60-EVOO and EVOO alone versus untreated controls. We failed to observe significant lifespan and health span benefits of C60-EVOO or EVOO supplementation compared to untreated controls, both starting the treatment in adult or old age. Our results call into question the biological benefit of C60-OO in aging.
In a nutshell, these findings raise serious doubts about the efficacy of C60 in improving lifespan and health. In fact, there’s some evidence that C60 may degrade into harmful compounds during storage in olive oil, and, perhaps more importantly, it’s clear that many of the products labeled C60 contain other, potentially harmful, compounds. This isn’t just a case of “buyer beware”, it is an excellent example of the need for safety and efficacy tests for supplements.
 Baati T, Bourasset F, Gharbi N, Njim L, Abderrabba M, Kerkeni A, Szwarc H, Moussa F. The prolongation of the lifespan of rats by repeated oral administration of fullerene. Biomaterials(2012), doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2012.03.036
 Tsuchiya T, Oguri I, Yamakoshi YN, Miyata N. Novel harmful effects of fullerene on mouse embryos in vitro and in vivo. FEBS Lett (1996), doi: 10.1016/0014-5793(96)00812-5
 Grohn, K.J., Moyer, B.S., Wortel, D.C., Fisher, C.M., Lumen, E., Bianchi, A.H., Kelly, K., … and Moody, K.J. C60 in olive oil causes light-dependent toxicity and does not extend lifespan in mice. GeroScience (2020), doi: 10.1007/s11357-020-00292-z