Is Type 2 Diabetes Caused By Genetics?
Several factors have to come together
for a person to develop type 2 diabetes. Elements like nutrition and exercise
are extremely important. However, type 2 diabetes also has a strong hereditary
If you have recently been diagnosed
with type 2 diabetes, look around. There is a good chance that you’re not the
first person with diabetes in your family. According to the American Diabetes Association, your risk of developing type 2 diabetes is:
- one in seven, if one of your parents was diagnosed
before the age of 50
- one in 13, if one of your parents was diagnosed after the
age of 50
- one in two, if both your parents have diabetes
However, not all of your type 2
diabetes risk is genetic. Major risk factors for type 2 diabetes also include
obesity and a sedentary lifestyle.
That said, several gene mutations have
been associated with type 2 diabetes risk. None of these genes cause diabetes
on their own. Instead, they interact with environmental factors — for instance,
toxins, viruses, and foods — and each other to increase your risk.
The Role of Heredity in Type 2
Type 2 diabetes is caused by both
genetic and environmental factors. Understanding the role of genetics requires
looking at other factors as well.
have linked several gene mutations to a higher diabetes risk. Not everyone who
carries a mutation will get diabetes. However, many people with diabetes have
one or more of these mutations.
Lifestyle and Family Inheritance
It can be difficult to separate lifestyle risk from genetic risk.
Lifestyle choices tend to run in the family. Sedentary parents tend to have
sedentary children. Parents with unhealthy eating habits are likely to pass
them on to the next generation. On the other hand, genetics play a big part in
determining weight. Sometimes behaviors can’t take all the blame.
Identifying the Genes
Responsible for Type 2 Diabetes
Studies of twins have shown that type 2
diabetes might be influenced by genetics, according to the American Diabetes Association. However, these studies were complicated
by the environmental influences that also affect type 2 diabetes risk.
Still, scientists have persevered. To
date, numerous mutations have been shown to affect type 2 diabetes risk. The
contribution of each gene is generally small. However, each additional mutation
you have seems to increase your risk.
In general, mutations in any gene
involved in glucose regulation can affect your risk of type 2 diabetes. These
include genes that control:
glucose levels are sensed in the body
Genes that have been associated with type
2 diabetes risk include:
which affects insulin secretion and glucose production
sulfonylurea urea receptor (ABCC8), which helps regulate insulin
10, which is associated with type 2 diabetes
risk in Mexican Americans
transporter 2 (GLUT2), which helps move glucose into the pancreas
glucagon receptor (GCGR), a glucagon hormone involved in glucose regulation
Genetic Testing for Type 2
Tests are available for some of the gene
mutations associated with type 2 diabetes. However, the risk increase for any
given mutation is small. Other factors are far more accurate predictors of
whether you’ll develop type 2 diabetes, including:
mass index (BMI)
triglycerides and cholesterol levels
of gestational diabetes
The interactions between genetics and the
environment make it hard to get a handle on the true cause of type 2 diabetes. That
doesn’t mean you can’t reduce your risk. Strong evidence supports the fact that
behavioral changes can reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
The Diabetes Prevention Program study, a large study of people at high risk for
diabetes, suggested that weight loss and increased physical activity can
prevent or delay type 2 diabetes. Blood glucose levels return to normal levels
in some cases. Similar results have been found in other international studies.