A few years ago an acquaintance contacted me to tell me about a "must have" supplement. We had a mutual interest in both nutrition and longevity, and this guy was usually well-informed so I listened intently to what he had to say. He asked me if I had ever heard of something called "C60" which I had not. He then referred me to a couple of websites that both sold it and provided information about it. He excitedly told me it was, among other things, the most potent antioxidant ever discovered and could increase longevity by 90%. That part made me wonder. If a substance actually was able to increase lifespan by 90%, and assuming that the maximum human lifespan is thought to be the 122 years attained by a French woman, then the C60 he was telling me about should allow humans to live to about 232 years old. I knew that some whale sharks are thought to be 500 years old, A tortoise is now 182 years of age, and a type of sea sponge called Monorhaphis Chuni managed to live to 11,000 years old, but I had never heard of a documented case of a human living to over 200. I was skeptical about the claims made for C60, but was intrigued. But what exactly is C60?
C60 is also known as a "Buckyball" named in honor of the mathematician Buckminster Fuller, who designed a structure called a Geodesic Dome that looks a lot like C60. C60 is also known as C60 fullerene and was discovered in 1985. It is a carbon 60 molecule, meaning that it contains 60 carbon atoms, 20 hexagons, and 12 pentagons, which gives it the appearance of a hollow soccer ball. Some of the unique properties of C60 are that it easily moves through cellular membranes and can even enter the mitochondria of cells. And that is where the health significance of C60 is thought to occur. The mitochondria are cigar-shaped organelles that are found in the cytosol or liquid portion of cells. Mitochondria are the site of both energy production, which produces the most elemental source of cellular energy, ATP, as well as the site of fat oxidation in a process called beta oxidation. From the perspective of exercise, the more mitochondria you have, the more energy you will have and also a greater capacity for fat burning or oxidation.
But the problem with mitochondria is that it is also the site of the greatest release of free radicals, byproducts of oxygen metabolism that can have negative health effects, although more recent research shows that a small release of free radicals at the right time is important for health. One example of this is the release of free radicals by immune cells as a means of destroying invading toxic organisms, such as bacteria. While the mitochondria does have some built-in antioxidant defense systems, including coenzyme Q10, the . . .