When Jeanne Calment died in 1997 at age 122, Guinness World Records–certified, reporters recounted her secret to longevity: a diet that included more than two pounds of chocolate a week, as well as the occasional glass of Port wine, and lots of olive oil.
According to a shocking new report, however, she might have padded her age by 23 years — meaning that wine and chocolate consumption may only help you live to about 99.
Russian researchers have reason to believe that Calment’s alleged age was a ruse, and they’ve published their findings in a paper in ResearchGate, in which they “challenge the validity of Jeanne Calment’s universally accepted record of human lifespan.”
Their theory is even wilder: that she stole her dead mother’s identity “in order to avoid paying inheritance tax,” and that her real name is Yvonne Calment — and that the Calment family reported the real Jeanne’s death as Yvonne’s death instead.
Some of the evidence mathematician Nicolai Zak and gerontologist Valeri Novoselov collected includes an identity card issued to Jeanne Calment in the 1930s that has they claim has discrepancies with her physical appearance later in life.
The card says her eye and hair color are black, and her height is 152 centimeters (around 4 feet 11 inches), but Zak says a doctor who examined “Jeanne” at age 114 found that there was a 2-centimeter height difference that wasn’t consistent with age-related loss in height.
“The young Yvonne is obviously taller than the old Jeanne,” Zak wrote.
Plus, the woman who died in 1997 had light gray eyes and brown hair.
Novoselov told Leaf Science last month that he also found something suspicious when he looked at the birth certificate of a maid that Jeanne Calment said took her to school as a child.
“It turns out that she was 10 years younger than Jeanne, which means that she could only be taking her daughter Yvonne to school,” he said.
According to CBS News, no autopsy was performed on Calment after her death, so the jury’s out on whether we’ll ever know for sure if she carried on a decades-long gambit. But if she did, the devastating realization follows that wine and chocolate might not actually be the secret to a record-breakingly long life, after all.