A Coda to the C60 in Olive Oil Saga

The matter of buckminsterfullerene (C60) in olive oil is an instructive example of how bad work can lead a field astray for some time, but is ultimately squashed. Back in 2012, a paper was published claiming a sizable effect on life span in rats via treatment with C60 in olive oil. There were red flags at the time: it was published in a journal outside the field of aging research, used a very small number of animals, and the size of the effect on life span was just too large to be credible. Peer review would have sunk this paper if submitted to an aging-focused journal. C60 is an antioxidant, so even if it is acting in the best possible way for antioxidants to act (i.e. targeting mitochondria while leaving the rest of the cell alone) it shouldn't be doing much better than other existing mitochondrially targeted antioxidants, many of which have a fair amount of published animal data to reference.

Unfortunately, one can't ignore large effect sizes, even when they are implausible and the study that produced them looks dubious. I said at the time that this was likely to go nowhere, didn't look good on the face of it, but nonetheless people were going to spend funds on trying to replicate it and dig into the biochemistry. It took a couple of years for those efforts to start up in earnest. The Methuselah Foundation funded some of this work, alongside Longecity and a few other organizations. The Ichor Therapeutics team carried out the heavy lifting. From the get-go, the work case doubt on the original paper, discovering that C60 in olive oil is quite challenging to formulate in ways that prevent toxicity. It took some years of working at the problem to carry out a reasonable animal study.

Now, eight years later, the results of that labor are published. As suspected, this is a dead end, and that initial 2012 paper looks the worse for someone taking the time to properly close the door on this line of work. This exercise illustrates why one should apply an appropriate level of skepticism to what one reads in the literature, and why journal boards should refrain from publishing data that lies outside their area of specialty. It also shows the self-correcting nature of scientific progress at work: replication is vital, as that is how errors are checked and removed once they take place. It takes far too long and costs far too much, but remains the least worst option.

C60 in olive oil causes light-dependent toxicity and does not extend lifespan in mice

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.


Thanks to Ichor and others that contributed to this research. I still would like to know why Baalti (sp?) began a follow up study, abandoned it when he moved to another field of research at a different university, and provided no updates to the people to whom had expressed interest in his research.

Posted by: JohnD at November 9th, 2020 4:35 PM

1) C60 was shown to improve skin/wrinkles

2) Activated charcoal was shown to be useful in detoxification, similar to C60 and improve lifespan.

Posted by: Eighthman at November 9th, 2020 7:50 PM

The hype in Longecity about C60 and other supplements is what made me leave the forum altogether.

Posted by: Antonio at November 10th, 2020 2:38 AM

"It also shows the self-correcting nature of scientific progress at work: replication is vital, as that is how errors are checked and removed once they take place. It takes far too long and costs far too much, but remains the least worst option. "

How to reduce cost though? And can citizen science help? What would the cost and difficulty of doing this experiment at home in Kilifish (with commercially available C60)?

Posted by: jimofoz at November 10th, 2020 4:58 AM

Dark days for longevity research are upon us. Joe Biden has announced the creation of a "Public Health Advisory Committee". One of the members, Ezekiel Emanuel, thinks it would be good to die at 75. Writing in the Atlantic, he said:

"Here is a simple truth that many of us seem to resist: living too long is also a loss. It renders many of us, if not disabled, then faltering and declining, a state that may not be worse than death but is nonetheless deprived. It robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society, the world. It transforms how people experience us, relate to us, and, most important, remember us. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic?"

I suspect that we will see a significant reduction in big pharma funded longevity research and pressure to reduce it at Universities and startups. I also think major announcements of progress will be suppressed. Let's hope this is only a hiatus and focus even more an the proven lifestyle and supplement measures we can take in the interim.

Posted by: Thomas Mark Schaefer at November 12th, 2020 8:55 AM
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