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Is Type 2 Diabetes Genetic?

Written by Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD · General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

Updated Oct 25, 2022

Is Type 2 Diabetes Genetic?

Is type 2 diabetes genetic? Diabetes is caused by several factors. It is common knowledge that nutrition and exercise play a role in diabetes, but it is a lesser-known fact that genetics also contribute to the development of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, you will likely suffer from type 2 diabetes if one or both of your parents have diabetes. So the question is, what is the connection between genetics and diabetes? Can genetics predict if you will get diabetes or not in your lifetime? And how does this genetic connection work?

Is Type 2 Diabetes genetic?

Though several gene mutations have been linked to diabetes, none of them actually cause the disease on their by themselves. In order to affect your health, those genetic factors must be combined with other environmental factors.

In fact, it is difficult to separate completely the health risks that lie in your genes and the ones that come coming from your lifestyle. As lifestyle choices are usually passed down to you from your parents; inactive parents tend to have inactive children. Likewise, unhealthy eating habits are likely to be passed to the next generation, and these habits contribute to developing diabetes even when genetic factors exist alongside them.

What Causes Diabetes?

When it comes to diabetes, genetics are only half the story. For both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, you inherit a predisposition to the disease. This means that you are more likely to develop diabetes than other people because of the genes you possess in your DNA. However, this doesn’t mean that diabetes is an eventuality for you. It only means that you are predisposed to it, or that the likelihood is stronger compared to others. Even then, you may develop the disease or you may not.

It all depends on your environment. Something triggers you to develop diabetes. These triggers may be linked to your lifestyle — a poor diet or obesity — or it may be genetic susceptibility. In this example, obesity is also inherited, so it can be difficult to isolate just how much of a role genetics plays in diabetes. 

What are the Genes Responsible for Type 2 Diabetes?

Is type 2 diabetes genetic? Studies of twins have shown that genetics might have some influences on type 2 diabetes., according to the American Diabetes Association. However, it is important to note that these studies were not totally conclusive because of the environmental influences that also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes risk. On their own, the contribution of each gene is relatively little, but. However, the more additional mutation you have, the higher your risks seem to increase.

Generally, your risks of type 2 diabetes will rise if you have mutations in the genes that control:

  • Production of glucose
  • Production of insulin
  • How glucose levels are sensed in the body
  • Regulation of insulin.

A number of genes have been identified to have a role in diabetes risk. Genes that have been associated with type 2 diabetes risk include:

  • TCF7L2, which affects insulin secretion and glucose production;
  • The sulfonyl urea receptor (ABCC8), which helps regulate insulin;
  • Calpain 10, which is associated with type 2 diabetes risk in Mexican Americans;
  • Glucose transporter 2 (GLUT2), which helps move glucose into the pancreas;
  • The glucagon receptor (GCGR), a glucagon hormone involved in glucose regulation.
  • What are Genetic Tests for Type 2 Diabetes?

    Even though there are tests available to detect diabetes gene mutations, the major risks depend much more on other predictors. These predictors including:

    • Body mass index (BMI)
    • High blood pressure
    • Elevated triglycerides and cholesterol levels
    • History of gestational diabetes

    Is type 2 diabetes genetic? The interactions between genetics and the environment make it inconclusive to measure the actual part gene mutations play in causing type 2 diabetes. At the same time, having some genetic factors does not mean you are definitely sentenced to diabetes. With positive changes in lifestyle such as increased physical activity activities and weight loss, diabetes can be prevented.

    While there genetic tests, in clinical practice, genetic testing for type 2 diabetes is not usually done. Consult your doctor.

    Key Takeaways

    Though diabetes is influenced by your genes, there are many things you can do to prevent it. You can adopt a healthier lifestyle that includes more exercise and proper diet. However, knowing and understanding your family history when it comes to diabetes is also crucial. It can help you seek medical intervention at the right time and help prevent disease progression.

    Learn more about Diabetes here


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Written by

    Mike Kenneth Go Doratan, MD

    General Surgery · The Medical City Ortigas

    Updated Oct 25, 2022

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