Diabetes mellitus type 2 (or type 2 diabetes) is a complex disease that is predominantly linked to dietary and lifestyle habits. One of the most commonly asked questions about the condition is, if I have a family member with type 2 diabetes, can that also increase my risk of developing diabetes? So what role, if any, do our genes play in developing diabetes? 1,2
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Type 2 diabetes develops when your body can’t control blood glucose levels, triggered by beta cells in the pancreas not releasing enough insulin or insulin not working properly in the body. Many factors are associated with type 2 diabetes, including genetic factors, linked to your genes, and environmental risk factors, which are related to your lifestyle and dietary habits. ). 3
Environmental risk factors
There are a range of both dietary and lifestyle habits that can impact your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some examples are:
- Being overweight or obese
- Leading an inactive lifestyle
- Eating an unhealthy diet
- Stress 5
As we mentioned previously, type 2 diabetes is complicated and environmental factors will affect everyone differently; it may increase one person’s risk of developing the disease more than another’s. What’s more, some people are more susceptible to developing type 2 diabetes than others, even when exposed to the same risk factors. This suggests that our genes do influence our risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. 1
So, what is the genetic influence?
Research suggests that if you have a close family member with type 2 diabetes, it can impact your chances of developing the condition. However, your risk can change depending on how closely related you are to the family member(s) with type 2 diabetes, especially whether one or both of your parents have the condition. For example, having one parent affected by type 2 diabetes increases your risk by 40% but having both parents affected increases your risk by 70%.2
This being said, not everyone with a family history of type 2 diabetes will go on to develop the condition. Type 2 diabetes is not thought to be triggered by a single gene or environmental factor but instead may be a complex interplay between environmental and genetic factors.1, 2 ,6
Reducing the risk
Although having a family history of type 2 diabetes can increase your risk, it’s not all bad news! There are plenty of simple steps you can take in your day-to-day life to help reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes:
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Lead an active lifestyle
- Follow a healthy diet
- Quit smoking
- Reduce stress—some people find activities such as walking, yoga or meditating can help 5,7,8,9
If you are looking for help to manage your prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, we’re here for you! At NUVI, we want to support you to self-manage your diabetes for long-term better health.
To find out more about the help and programmes available that we provide, click here.
- Mambiya, M., Shang, M., Wang, Y., Li, Q., Liu, S., Yang, L., Zhang, Q., Zhang, K., Liu, M., Nie, F., Zeng, F., & Liu, W. (2019). The Play of Genes and Non-genetic Factors on Type 2 Diabetes. In Frontiers in Public Health(Vol. 7). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpubh.2019.00349
- Ali, O. (2013). Genetics of type 2 diabetes.World Journal of Diabetes, 4(4), 114. https://doi.org/10.4239/wjd.v4.i4.114
- Bar-Tana, J. (2021). Insulin Resistance, Secretion and Clearance –Taming the Three Effector Encounter of Type 2 Diabetes. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 12. https://doi.org/10.3389/fendo.2021.741114
- Geng, T., & Huang, T. (2020). Gene-environment interactions and type 2 diabetes. In Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition(Vol. 29, Issue 2). https://doi.org/10.6133/apjcn.202007_29(2).0002
- Wu, Y., Ding, Y., Tanaka, Y., & Zhang, W. (2014). Risk factors contributing to type 2 diabetes and recent advances in the treatment and prevention. InInternational journal of medical sciences (Vol. 11, Issue 11). https://doi.org/10.7150/ijms.10001
- Kelly, S. J., & Ismail, M. (2015). Stress and type 2 diabetes: A review of how stress contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes. InAnnual Review of Public Health (Vol. 36). https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122921
- Olafsdottir, G., Cloke, P., Schulz, A., van Dyck, Z., Eysteinsson, T., Thorleifsdottir, B., & Vögele, C. (2020). Health Benefits of Walking in Nature: A Randomized Controlled Study Under Conditions of Real-Life Stress. Environment and Behavior, 52(3). https://doi.org/10.1177/0013916518800798
- Sahni, P. S., Singh, K., Sharma, N., & Garg, R. (2021). Yoga an effective strategy for selfmanagement of stress-related problems and wellbeing during COVID19 lockdown: A crosssectional study.PLoS ONE, 16(2 February). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0245214
- Sharma, M., & Rush, S. E. (2014). Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction as a Stress Management Intervention for Healthy Individuals: A Systematic Review.Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 19(4). https://doi.org/10.1177/2156587214543143