To many people, fullerenes — special carbon molecules that have potential applications in many fields, from physics to biology — may sound a little like science fiction.
In this article, you’ll learn more about the current research on C60 and its potential health effects.
C60 is the most common fullerene, made up of 60 carbon atoms that form a structure that looks like a hollow soccer ball.
Because of the way these atoms bond together, C60 interacts with free radicals in the environment, giving the molecule strong antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants in foods like fruits and vegetables may reduce oxidative stress in the body, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative HealthTrusted Source.
Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in aging, as well as a number of health conditions, including:
- neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease
- heart disease
Because it has antioxidant properties, some people take C60 as a supplement. It’s also put in some anti-aging skin care products for this reason.
Although C60 was isolated several decades ago, research into the effects of the molecule on human health is still in the early stages.
Most studies have been performed in cells or animals, and only a handful of human studies have been done.
The chart below summarizes the current state of the C60 research landscape in seven health and wellness areas. Each field has been given a grade based on the number of studies that showed an effect of C60 and whether they were studied in humans or animals:
- +: one or more studies in animals have shown an effect
- ++: one or more studies in humans have shown an effect
- +/-: multiple studies have shown mixed results
|A 2010 randomized, placebo-controlled trialTrusted Source examined the use of a C60-containing skin cream in 23 Japanese women and the effect on wrinkles and skin roughness.
In a small 2011 study, researchers studied the effects of a face gel containing C60 on acne.
Studies done in mice have also examined the ability of C60-containing solutions to block the effects of ultraviolet radiation and promote hair growth when applied to the skin.
|In 2019, research was publishedTrusted Source that examined the effects of a C60 derivative on joint damage and inflammation in rats with arthritis.
A 2016 studyTrusted Source explored the ability of a C60 compound to regulate inflammation in a mouse model of eczema.
|Rat models of amyloidosis and Alzheimer’s disease have been used to examine the effects of C60, delivered directly into the brain, on learning and memoryTrusted Source and cognitive functionTrusted Source.
|Cancer, cancer treatment effects
|Studies have explored the effects of C60 derivatives on tumor growth, metastasis, and survival in miceTrusted Source and ratsTrusted Source.
A 2020 studyTrusted Source examined the ability of C60 to protect against lung damage in mice treated with bleomycin, an anti-cancer drug.
|A 2017 studyTrusted Source explored the effects of C60 on muscle fatigue and endurance in rats.
|Researchers in 2012 and in 2020 examined the ability of C60 to affect the lifespan of rats.
|Studies in rat models of diabetes have examined the ability of C60 to prevent neuronal and kidney damageTrusted Source resulting from hyperglycemia.
In a 2020 study, researchers explored whether C60 affected the gut microbiome and how that influenced insulin resistance.
Most current evidence suggests that C60 isn’t toxic in humans, though more research is needed. According to a 2016 reviewTrusted Source, human and animal studies have found that reactions to application of C60 on the skin are uncommon.
One 2012 study found that various doses of C60 dissolved in corn oil were not toxic to rats. Another 2012 study found that C60 dissolved in olive oil was not toxic to rats. More research in humans is needed.
More scientific evidence is needed to establish an effective dose of C60 that may be associated with human health benefits. The doses used in rodent studies vary significantly.
In rodent studies, oral doses of C60, typically dissolved in olive oil, usually range from 0.4 to 5 milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) of body weight.
Effects on the skin in human and animal studies have been seen with C60 doses ranging from less than 0.0005 percent to 0.05 percent.
Although decades of research suggest that C60 is generally safe for humans and animals, research on the many potential health effects of C60 supplements is still in the early stages.
Studies have tested the effects of the molecule on several conditions, but the most advanced studies have been performed as part of skin care research.
Before taking C60 or any supplements, it’s important to talk with your doctor.