Is Diabetes Hereditary?

Diabetes is a complex condition that can be caused by a variety of reasons. If you are a diabetic patient or your family has a history of diabetes...

Diabetes is a complex condition that can be caused by a variety of reasons. If you are a diabetic patient or your family has a history of diabetes, you may be curious about whether the condition is genetic. Especially considering that this condition increased over the period of 25 years from 35 million to 240 million people diagnosed with diabetes. 

Is type 2 diabetes genetic or hereditary?

Type 2 diabetes is inherited in the same way as type 1. This means that mothers and fathers pass on a group of genes that can cause type 2 diabetes to their children. While not everyone who inherits the genes will develop type 2 diabetes, those who do have a higher risk of developing it. So you are probably wondering now:

  • Are some people genetically predisposed to develop diabetes?
  • Can type 2 diabetes be hereditary?
  • Is the condition purely a result of lifestyle?

The answer to these questions is more complex than many people realize. In this article, we will discuss the relationship between diabetes and genetics.

Can you get diabetes if it runs in the family?

The majority of people who develop diabetes are affected by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. Predisposing genes play a role. They are only activated or “expressed” in the presence of stress, poor nutrition, a sedentary lifestyle, and exposure to environmental toxins. What is really driving our "diabesity" epidemic? It is all connected to how well we handle stress, how we eat, and how much we exercise. Our exposure to environmental and food-based pollutants. The systemic violence or "obesogenic climate" is influencing these factors for increased risk.

The “exposome” is a series of environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle exposures that each of us experiences. They are affecting our genetic expression and function. Our diet, chemicals, bacteria, allergens, pressures, social interactions, emotions, and beliefs all influence which genes are activated or deactivated. When an environmental factor tags our DNA, such changes in genetic expression can be passed down over generations. Those changes are called epigenetics and they are inheritable.

Family history

For example, imagine this family history case. If your grandmother or grandfather had a diet full of sugar they potentially "turned on" the genes that cause diabetes. Her epigenome, which is linked to a higher risk of disease, will then be passed down through the generations. Yes, that would put you at a high risk of developing the condition but you will not be predetermined. Every moment you have the power to influence and transform your gene expression. To reverse the disease by changing the messages and instructions you send to your DNA.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Let’s start by defining type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is by far the more common form with 90% of diabetic patients being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Type 2 diabetes develops when sugar or glucose builds up in the bloodstream. Normally, the hormone insulin moves glucose from the blood into the cells to be used as energy. With type 2 diabetes, the body becomes insulin-resistant, rendering the hormone largely ineffective. This results in the build of sugar in the bloodstream, which can eventually lead to chronically high blood glucose levels unless the condition is managed properly.

Is type 2 diabetes hereditary?

So, where does diabetes come from? Is diabetes genetically inherited, or does it develop as a result of non-genetic factors? Type 2 diabetes occurs when your body becomes insulin-resistant, which can occur for a range of reasons.

The role of genetics in type 2 diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to family history than type 1 diabetes. Twin studies have revealed that genetics plays a significant role in developing type 2 diabetes. Race can also be a factor. However, environmental factors are important. The development of type 2 diabetes is also influenced by a person's lifestyle. 

What is the main cause of diabetes?

Obesity

Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, with almost 90% of people with type 2 diabetes being overweight. Obese people have an increased level of fatty acid and inflammation, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. While obesity is often a result of poor lifestyle choices, such as a fatty diet or a lack of exercise, genetics can also lead to obesity.

Genetics

Genetics can influence an individual's weight gain. For example, the FTO gene (or fat mass and obesity-associated gene) is found in 43% of obese people. Even if your diabetes is a result of being overweight, chances are, your genetics played a part in your weight gain.

Lifestyle choices

Be aware of your lifestyle. Insulin resistance and blood sugar imbalances are exacerbated by stress, which is a significant and often overlooked contributor. When you are feeling overwhelmed use deep breathing techniques, visualization, yoga, meditation, and other calming methods to stop and relax. Pay attention to your environment. Environmental toxins also contribute to stress. Try filtering your water, look for green cleaning products, and avoid plastics when you can. Stop smoking. Get enough sleep. Understand the effects of smoking here.

Can diabetes be genetic even if you are not overweight?

This is a challenging question to answer. In some cases, yes, diabetes seems to be an inherited condition. Predisposing genes play an important role. But certain studies showed that lifestyle choices are the most important factor when it comes to developing the condition. For instance, if two people have the same genetic propensity for diabetes, the person who leads an active, healthy lifestyle is far less likely to develop the condition.

Find out if you are at genetic risk of diabetes

If you have not been diagnosed with diabetes, but know that obesity and diabetes run in your family, you may be wondering whether you can find out if you’re at risk. Unfortunately, doctors have not yet determined exactly which genes make you susceptible to type 2 diabetes. Those with a genetic disposition for diabetes should aim to lead the healthiest lifestyle they can to minimize their chances of developing the condition. Here are a few ways you can lower your own risk:

  • Exercise. Engage in a range of physical activities, including both aerobic and anaerobic activity in your regime. Walk at least 30 minutes every day. Check out our easy office workout suggestions for people with a sedimentary lifestyle here.
  • Meal planning. Avoid processed foods and enjoy a balanced diet that is rich in essential nutrients. Pick a day to plan your weekly meals. That way you will have balanced meals daily.
  • Avoid obesity. Ensure that you pursue a healthy lifestyle that will minimize your chances of becoming obese.

Will I pass diabetes on to my children?

If your family has a history of diabetes or you have been diagnosed with diabetes yourself, you may be concerned about passing the condition on to your children. It is difficult to know whether you carry the genes that can increase the risk of diabetes. It is also difficult to know whether your child may inherit these genes. Instead, encourage healthy habits in your children and educate them about the condition. A healthy lifestyle should reduce their risk of developing the condition. If they do end up developing diabetes, they will be ready to manage the condition in the best way possible by continuing to make healthy lifestyle choices even after their diagnosis.

Genetic testing for type 2 diabetes

With advances in genomics and large repositories of genetic data from the general public, scientists have now identified how certain genetic variants raise or lower the risk of a particular disease. They are using these associations to calculate a risk score. While your genetics might tell you that you are at a higher risk for developing a form of diabetes, that would not be the whole story. In addition to genetic predisposition, it is important to factor in an individual's environment and habits. When it comes to diabetes, environmental, nutritional, and lifestyle exposures play a significant role.

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