Are Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes Genetic?

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By : dLife Editors

Diabetes is a complex disease that has no single cause.  You may wonder how you developed yours.  You may also worry whether your children might develop it.  Finding out whether diabetes is genetic is a good place to start.

Unlike other traits, diabetes doesn’t seem to be inherited in a simple pattern.

However, it is clear that some people are born more likely to develop diabetes than others.  Certain environmental and lifestyle factors can also cause diabetes in individuals with no family history of diabetes.

Can Type 1 Diabetes Be Hereditary?

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease and therefore results in the body’s immune system attacking healthy cells. It is often diagnosed in people during their childhood and therefore was once commonly referred to as juvenile diabetes.

It is also a condition that lasts a lifetime. This type of diabetes has always been thought to be wholly hereditary because it is diagnosed more in children whose lives are limitedly influenced by lifestyle.

However, various new studies have proved that children develop type 1 diabetes 3% of the time if their mother also has type 1 diabetes, 5% of the time if their father has the condition, and 8% if a sibling also has the type of diabetes.

You can learn more about the causes and genetic components of type 1 diabetes here.

Given these statistics, some researchers also believe this type of diabetes is triggered by something in the environment including:

  • Cold weather: Type 1 diabetes is known to develop more often in winter than it does in summer. It is also found very common in places with cold climates.
  • Viruses: This is also another trigger for type 1 diabetes as researchers believed some viruses might be responsible for activating diabetes in people who are otherwise vulnerable. Mumps, measles, rotavirus and Coxsackie B virus have all been linked to type 1 diabetes.
  • Diet: Researchers also believe that early diet may have some roles to play. Type 1 diabetes is not very common among people who were well fed with breast milk as well as in people who ate solid foods at later ages.

Is Type 2 Diabetes Hereditary?

More than type 1 diabetes, the type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to lineage and family history, although it also depends on environmental factors as well.

This type of diabetes is the more common type, accounting for more than 90% of the cases worldwide. Like type 1 diabetes, it is also partially hereditary. People who have a family history of the disorder are significantly more likely to develop diabetes.

However, type 2 diabetes has also been identified with some lifestyle factors, including obesity. According to a study conducted on some group of people with type 2 diabetes, it was discovered that 73% of the people had moderate to high family factors and only 40% of the people were obese.

This suggests that when it comes to the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, genetics may increase the risk even more than lifestyle or other factors will do, including obesity.

Nevertheless, the risk of developing diabetes tends to significantly increase when family history and obesity were both at play. Generally, people who have a family history of diabetes and at the same time, obese, had a 40% risk of coming down with type 2 diabetes.

Does this mean type 2 diabetes is wholly dependent on genetics?

No. this doesn’t mean it is purely hereditary and also doesn’t mean an increased genetic risk factor makes the disease unavoidable.

But knowing the risk factors and working towards reducing them makes it much possible and easier to avoid the condition. Some of the risk factors for type 2 diabetes include being overweight, physically inactive, having high blood pressure, a history of cardiovascular diseases, depression, and a history of gestational diabetes.

Aging also has some effects on the development of this type of diabetes as growing old tends to increase its risk. As people advance in age tending towards 45 years, they have increased risk, especially if they have other risk factors also in play.

Does It Mean That People with No Known Risk Factors Cannot Develop Diabetes?

No. that someone does not have any known risk factors for diabetes doesn’t mean they can never get diabetes. But maintaining healthy lifestyle choices like maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating healthful balanced diet all works together to help you prevent it.

You can learn more about the causes and genetic components of type 2 diabetes here.


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4. Susan, H., Paula, W. Y., Nadeem, Q., Rodolfo, V., Maren, T., Muin, J. K. (2006, Feb 01). Family History Of Type 2 Diabetes: A Population-Based Screening Tool For Prevention? Genetics in Medicinevolume8, pages102–108 (2006). Retrieved from