Is diabetes hereditary?

Is diabetes hereditary?

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes are the two varieties. Although the conditions of each type have different causes, you can inherit a propensity for each one. Researchers are attempting to comprehend how a person’s risk for diabetes is influenced by genetic heredity. A number of genes linked to the condition have been discovered. But it’s still unclear how the information can be used to gauge a person’s risk. Studies have examined if living a certain way of life and other clinical risk factors are more significant than simply having the gene as a risk factor. Continue reading to find out how your risk is impacted by your family’s history of diabetes.

Type 1 diabetes, Type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes genetics

Let’s look at each form of diabetes separately to see how genetics and family history affect the disease.


Prediabetes genetics


If your blood sugar levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, you may have prediabetes. There are numerous reasons that might cause prediabetes. One of these is a history of Type 2 diabetes in the family, particularly if a parent or sibling has the disease. But there are other dangers, like:


  • Having a larger body mass
  • Having reached the age of 45
  • Less than three times per week of exercise
  • Having gestational diabetes or giving birth to a child who weighs more over 9 pounds (diabetes while pregnant)


Knowing your risk for prediabetes is ultimately equivalent to knowing your risk for Type 2 diabetes. This is because Type 2 diabetes can develop from prediabetes. So let’s take a closer look at the genetics of Type 2 diabetes.



Type 2  Diabetes  genetics


When a person has Type 2 diabetes, their blood sugar levels are high because either their body does not produce enough insulin or it does not utilise the insulin effectively. The risk factors for developing prediabetes are comparable to the predictors of Type 2 diabetes:


  • Family diabetes history
  • More substantial weight
  • Higher blood levels of liver enzymes
  • The current level of smoking
  • Race and ethnicity (for example, Asian, African, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian, and Pacific Islander)


You might be shocked to find that Type 2 diabetes is more inherited than Type 1 diabetes, though.



For instance, to comprehend genetic risk variables, researchers employ identical twin studies. These studies can be used as an excellent reference point to determine disease risk. This is so because although identical twins have the same genes, their lifestyles frequently diverge. According to research, there is a 75% likelihood that the other twin will also get Type 2 diabetes if one twin does. This implies that although there is a significant genetic component, genes do not account for everything. It is still unknown whether a person’s genetic propensity can cause Type 2 diabetes in the future. However, if you do have the genes that increase your risk, they can increase your risk in addition to the other variables mentioned above.

The American Diabetes Association (ADA) acknowledges the significance of environmental risk factors. Your family may have a genetic predisposition to diabetes, but it’s also possible that you share dietary or lifestyle behaviors with them that increase your risk of getting the disease. This supports the hypothesis that diabetes “runs” in families with similar genetic make-up and dietary habits.


Environmental aspects, like dietary habits and exercise routines, are crucial in determining diabetes risk. Obese or overweight people are more likely to have type 2 diabetes. The genes involved are still poorly understood, although inherited influences are also significant. One gene mutation can cause disease in rare kinds of diabetes. However, numerous genes are known to play a role in type 2 diabetes. The gene sequence of “diabetes genes” may only differ slightly, yet these variants may be very frequent. Linking single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are frequent gene differences, to an elevated risk of developing diabetes is challenging.

Whole-genome linkage studies are one technique for identifying the genes associated with diabetes susceptibility. The affected family members’ complete genomes are scanned, the families are tracked over several generations, and/or several affected sibling-pairs are researched in great numbers. There may be links between specific regions of the genome and the likelihood of acquiring diabetes. To date only two genes, calpain 10 (CAPN10) and hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 alpha (HNF4A), have been identified by this method.



Type 1 diabetes genetics

Diabetes type 1 is an autoimmune condition. When the body attacks the cells that produce insulin, it occurs. Although type 1 diabetes can afflict anyone at any age, it typically manifests in childhood or adolescence. Type 1 diabetes affects less than 10% of all diabetics.


Identical twin studies are also used by researchers to explore Type 1 diabetes. If one twin is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, there is only a 50% probability that the other will follow. This indicates that although there is a genetic component, there is also a hereditary component. People need to inherit risk factors from both parents and have environmental factors that lead to the development of Type 1 diabetes in the majority of instances.


Which parent is more likely to pass on diabetes—the mother or the father?

From the father’s side, type 1 diabetes is somewhat more heritable. The likelihood of your child having diabetes is 1 in 17 if you are genetically male and have Type 1 diabetes. Your child is less likely to get type 1 diabetes if you are genetically female and already have it. The age you are when you get pregnant is another factor. The risk is 1 in 25 if you are under 25. Over the age of 25, the risk is one in one hundred. To determine the hazards for persons with Type 2 diabetes, more research is necessary.


Can you avoid developing diabetes even if your genes predispose you to it?

Yes. To reduce your risk of prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes, the CDC and ADA advise making particular lifestyle modifications. Both organizations provide resources and advice to assist you in making these lifestyle adjustments. Several pointers are as follows:


  • Include more nutritious foods in your diet.
  • Keep your body at a healthy weight.
  • Launch a regular workout program.
  • Describe your health objectives to stay motivated.
  • Obtain a health coach if necessary.


It’s normal to experience anxiety or overwhelm if you have diabetes, prediabetes, or both. However, keep in mind that there are things you can do to maintain your health and reduce your risk of having diabetes or its complications.


The conclusion

Particularly Type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, diabetes risk can run in families. However, a hereditary risk does not guarantee that you will experience the condition. Knowing the other risk factors that you may influence, such as food, weight, and smoking, is beneficial. By being proactive and making the necessary changes, you may be able to prevent having diabetes yourself even if it runs in your family.



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A review article by

Dr Bhavna Kalvala (Clinical Research Director @ IEEARC Tech)


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