Carbon 60 has recently been promoted by some commentators on this blog. Their claim seems to be that it is the best thing since sliced bread. So, what should we make of carbon 60 as a dietary supplement?
Here is my attempt to provide a brief summary:
The endogenous production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) is a consequence of basal cellular respiration. At a moderate level, ROS are involved in cell signalling and required for biochemical energetics of life. When ROS overwhelm the cellular anti-oxidant defence system, oxidative stress can cause damage to cellular proteins, lipids and nucleic acids. Oxidative stress has been implicated in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis, neurodegeneration, cancer and musculoskeletal conditions. Therefore, it might be of therapeutic value to relieve the oxidative stress by neutralising ROS with extrinsic anti-oxidants. One potentially potent anti-oxidants is ‘carbon 60’ (also called Fullerene 60).
But what exactly is carbon 60?
Carbon 60 is a molecule composed of 60 carbon atoms arranged in a sphere, and is also known as a buckyball, a cluster of sixty carbon atoms in the shape of a ball, also known as buckminsterfullerene. The carbon atoms in C60 fullerene are linked to three adjacent carbon atoms by strong covalent bonds, and form a spherical pattern of 20 hexagons and 12 pentagons, also known as a truncated icosahedron. The C60 molecule is around 0.7 to 1 nanometres in diameter. Most carbon 60 is manufactured in the laboratory, using an electric arc between two carbon electrodes to create a soot from which the carbon 60 fullerene molecules can be extracted. Tweaking the soot-creating conditions also allows carbon nanotubes to be created instead of C60 buckyballs.
The medicinal properties of carbon 60 currently are the subject of much hype. One website lists 12 amazing health benefits of carbon 60.
#1 May Increase Longevity
#2 Scavenges Free Radicals
#3 May Promote Less Bodily Stiffness and Happier Joints
#4 Seems to Improve Immune Function
#5 Possibly Supports Brain Health
#7 Promotes Cleanliness & Supports Good Hygiene
#8 Might Help You Maintain an Even Waistline
#9 Might Be Useful As A Chemo Support Supplement
#10 Possible UV Protection
#11 Might Enhance Your Skincare Routine
#12 Could Prove Helpful As A Support for Male Infertility Treatments
Is there any evidence to justify these claims? My ‘rough and ready’ searches found just two clinical trials:
Highly purified and organic solvent-free fullerene-C60 was dissolved, at nearly saturated concentration of 278 ppm, in squalane prepared from olive oil, which is designated as LipoFullerene (LF-SQ) and was examined for usage as a cosmetic ingredient with antioxidant ability. The aim of this study was to assess the anti-wrinkle formation efficacy of LF-SQ in subjects. A total of 23 Japanese women (group I: age 38.9 +/- 3.8, n = 11, group II; age 39.4 +/- 4.3, n = 12) were enrolled in an 8-week trial of LF-SQ blended cream in a randomized, matched pair double-blind study. The LF-SQ cream was applied twice daily on the right or left half of the face, and squalane blended cream (without fullerene-C60) was applied as the placebo on another half of the face. As clinical evaluations of wrinkle grades, visual observation and photographs, and silicone replicas of both crow’s feet areas were taken at baseline (0 week) and at 4th and 8th weeks. Skin replicas were analyzed using an optical profilometry technique. The wrinkle and skin-surface roughness features were calculated and statistically analyzed. Subsequently, trans-epidermal water loss (TEWL), moisture levels of the stratum corneum, and visco-elasticity (suppleness: RO and elasticity: R7) were measured on cheeks by instrumental analysis. LF-SQ cream enhanced the skin moisture and the anti-wrinkle formation. LF-SQ cream that was applied on a face twice daily was not effective at 4th week, but significantly more effective than the placebo at 8th week (p < 0.05) without severe side effects. The roughness-area ratio showed significant improvement (p < 0.05) at 8th week with LF-SQ cream as compared to 0 week with LF-SQ cream, but no significant difference was detected between LF-SQ cream and the placebo. We suggest that LF-SQ could be used as an active ingredient for wrinkle-care cosmetics.
Oxidative stress plays a major role in acne formation, suggesting that oxygen radical scavengers are potential therapeutic agents. Fullerene is a spherical carbon molecule with strong radical sponge activity; therefore, we studied the effectiveness of fullerene gel in treating acne vulgaris. We performed an open trial using a fullerene gel twice a day; at 4 and 8 weeks, the mean number of inflammatory lesions (erythematous papules and pustules) significantly (P < 0.05) decreased from 16.09 ± 9.08 to 12.36 ± 7.03 (reduction rate 23.2%) and 10.0 ± 5.62 (reduction rate 37.8%), respectively. The number of pustules, consisting of accumulation of neutrophils, was significantly (P < 0.05) decreased from 1.45 ± 1.13 to 0.18 ± 0.60 (reduction rate 87.6%), and further in vitro assays of sebum production in hamster sebocytes revealed that 75 μM polyvinylpyrrolidone-fullerene inhibits sebum production, suggesting that fullerene suppresses acne through decreasing neutrophil infiltration and sebum production. After treatment for 8 weeks, the water content of the skin significantly (P < 0.05) increased from 51.7 ± 7.9 to 60.4 ± 10.3 instrumental units. Therefore, the fullerene gel may help in controlling acne vulgaris with skin care benefit.
So, would you buy a supplement of carbon 60? There are many products to chose from. Yet, many readers of this blog might hesitate: not only is the evidence hardly anything to write home about, but also the price tags are eye-watering (~£40/100ml of oil enriched with carbon 60).