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Fact Check-Post states wrong ages at which several inventors died

Correcting Harland Sanders’ year of death in paragraph 12

Posts on social media claim that people can eat and drink whatever they like and not exercise because the inventors of the treadmill and gymnastics and a successful footballer and bodybuilder all died young but the creators of KFC, Nutella, Winston cigarettes, opium and Hennessy lived long lives. Aside from the fact that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other scientists recommend heathy eating and regular exercise to reduce the risk of disease and increase life expectancy, many of the ages at which the post claims these people died also appear to be incorrect.

Shared over 14,000 times, the posts (here , here , here) say, “Eat whatever you like because - The inventor of the treadmill died at the age of 54. The inventor of gymnastics died at 57. The world bodybuilding champion died at 41. The best footballer in the world, Maradona, died at 60. And then - The KFC inventor died at 94. The inventor of Nutella died at 88. The cigarette maker Winston died at 102. The inventor of opium died at 116 in an earthquake. The inventor of Hennessy died at 98. How did doctors come to the conclusion that exercise prolongs life? […] So rest, chill, eat, drink and enjoy life.”

The CDC website says that people who eat healthily live longer: “People with healthy eating patterns live longer and are at lower risk for serious health problems such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and obesity.” (here) It also recommends regular physical activity for a healthy lifestyle: “physical activity reduces risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes [and] reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety.” (here)

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Mayo Clinic also say that a healthy diet and exercise are important for a healthy life and for controlling or delaying age-related health problems (here , here , here).

While genetics and externalities also play a role in one’s lifespan, the meme includes incorrect ages for the people it lists.

TREADMILL INVENTOR

The posts claim that the inventor of the treadmill died aged 54. William Staub, who invented the first mass-produced modern home treadmill, died aged 96 in 2012 (here , here , here).

There were many precursors to the modern treadmill created by inventors including, Sir William Cubitt (died aged 76 in 1861), Robert Bruce (died age 87 in 2004) and Wayne Quinton (died aged 94 in 2015) (here , here , here).

GYMNASTICS

The social media posts claim that “the inventor of gymnastics” died aged 57. Although gymnastics has a long history, Friedrick Ludwig Jahn, who died in 1852 aged 74, is generally seen as the father of modern gymnastics (here , here , here , here , here).

BODYBUILDING CHAMPION

“The world bodybuilding champion died at 41,” say the posts. It is not clear who this post is referring to. Reuters searches did not show any people that matched this description, however, several successful bodybuilders have died young (here , here , here), including Rich Piana who died aged 46 (here) and Mike Matarazzo who died aged 48 (here , here).

Intense bodybuilding and the supplements that some bodybuilders take can have negative health impacts (here , here , here).

MARADONA

The posts say that the footballer Diego Maradona died aged 60, which is true (here). However, Maradona suffered from drug and alcohol addictions and overeating.

KFC FOUNDER

The posts say that the inventor of KFC fried chicken died aged 94. Harland Sanders, who founded KFC, died aged 90 in 1980 (www.kfc.co.uk/colonels-story , here).

NUTELLA CREATOR

The posts claim that the inventor of chocolate and hazelnut spread Nutella died aged 88. Nutella was created in 1964 by the Ferrero company (here). Michele Ferrero who was in charge of the Ferrero company at that time, died aged 89 in 2015 (here , here). He was a billionaire and Italy’s richest man (here).

WINSTON FOUNDER

“The cigarette maker Winston died at 102,” say the posts. Winston is a brand of cigarettes that was first made in 1954 by the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Bowman Gray, Jr., who was head of the company at that time, died in 1969 aged 62 (here , here , here).

OPIUM

The posts claim that the “inventor of opium” died aged 116 in an earthquake. Opium has been known about and used for thousands of years (here , here , here).

Reuters could not find evidence of anyone credited with inventing opium who died aged 116.

According to the Guinness World Records the oldest person ever was a woman who lived to 122 (here). The oldest man died aged 116, and no other man has lived to 116 (here) , here).

HENNESSY FOUNDER

Finally, the posts allege that the inventor of Hennessy died at 98. The company is a cognac producer, founded in 1765 by Richard Hennessy (www.hennessy.com/ , here , here). Richard Hennessy died in 1800 at approximately 76 years old (here , here , here).

VERDICT

Partly false. Although some of the descriptions of the people are vague, it appears that all except for one of the ages listed are incorrect. The CDC and HHS advise that a healthy diet and physical exercise can help people live longer and reduces risk of disease.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .

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