Did you know that diabetes type 2 is the most widespread type occurring in 90-95 % of all cases? This medical condition is characterized by unnaturally high blood sugar levels and the body’s inability to produce and use insulin as it is supposed to.

Still, type 2 diabetes never appears like a bolt from the blue – most individuals who, with time, acquire the disease first have insulin resistance and prediabetes. Their bodies lose the ability to ‘feel’ insulin and, as a result, need more and more insulin to keep blood sugar at a normal level.

At the same time, insulin-producing cells in the pancreas stop responding to the changes in blood sugar. Opinions about the nature of this disease vary: some people claim that the reason is aging, some others say it is the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, while other opinions stop at genetic reasons.

Is Type 2 Diabetes Caused by Genetics

The hypothesis has not appeared out of empty claims. To find out what causes insulin resistance and, later, type 2 diabetes, and without biases, answer the question, ‘Is type 2 diabetes genetic?’, let us have a look at statistical data.

  • Around 80-90% of people who suffer from diabetes have other relatives with this disease.
  • Children born into families with diabetic parents in 10-15% of cases will develop diabetes as well.
  • If one twin is diagnosed with diabetes, there is a nearly a 75% probability for another twin to be diabetic too.
  • To develop type 2 diabetes, one must be born with a specific genetic trait that determines a predisposition to diabetes.
  • The risk for individuals with one diabetic parent to get the same illness is 40%, and for individuals with both diabetic parents is 70%.

In contrast to this data, American Diabetes Association says that while type 2 diabetes has a strong connection with family and environment, it is still a huge matter of lifestyle. Scientists are sure that you can prevent the disease with healthy meals, right exercising, weight control, and the absence of poor habits such as smoking and alcohol abuse.

The Role of Genetics in Type 2 Diabetes

What was recently found and what impressed the publicity, including medical workers, is that type 2 diabetes is related to gene mutations. Still, it has been difficult for a long time to define whether a disease was the result of the same behaviors or the same chromosome in a particular family. Today in 2022, scientists say it might be both.

The role of studying type 2 diabetes genetic is still huge. A special cell leading to reduced insulin secretion and a number of genes with not yet explained biological relations to diabetes were found in the study. It is clear now that type 2 diabetes mellitus is inherited, but the patterns of heredity remain a mystery. Genes are extremely complicated and are influenced by a hundred things from environment to diets, and it is hard to track what exactly causes diabetes in specific cases. But the more scientists study genotypes, the more accuracy there is in predicting risks for having diabetes.

The Main Factors

Things commonly associated with type 2 diabetes include a set of factors, including the type 2 diabetes genetic factors. They will be described here below. Meanwhile, here are the factors that should be mentioned concerning type 2 diabetes.

  1. Unhealthy diet and physical inactivity.

    A menu compiled mostly of rapidly absorbed carbohydrates, saturated fat, refined sugar, much salt, and very little fruit and veg is a big trigger for type 2 diabetes to develop. Such diet leads to higher cholesterol, higher than normal BMI (body mass index), etc. Combine it with a sedentary way of life, and you get a big risk for your health.

    So, is type 2 diabetes genetic or is it about a lifestyle? It turns out it’s both. If you are already taking steps towards better health and are interested in changing your diet to eliminate risks, the infographic below can help you find the way around.

    Top 8 foods that are limited for type 2 diabetes


  2. Intake of certain drugs.

    Particular medical supplies are proven to increase the chances of getting diabetes mellitus. Though, some of them even directly cause the disease leading to drug-induced diabetes. Thiazides and drugs to cure asthma and separate types of arthritis (corticosteroids) may be primary factors.

  3. Stress.

    The correlation between hormones our bodies produce and stress is so strong that, perhaps, everybody is aware now. Stress makes us release cortisol, which is responsible for raising the blood sugar levels, pressure and getting muscles ready for action. What is interesting, the immune system, in this case, gets temporarily suppressed. Although stress is a normal part of life, it is chronic stress to be feared (and avoided as much as possible).

Genetic Factors

Any human body has got over 25,000 genes, and each of them can take different forms during its lifetime. Such variations, otherwise called mutations, increase the chances for a person to have certain health issues. Many people wonder, ‘Is type 2 diabetes genetic in nature?’ and the response is ‘Yes. Partially.’

Diabetes mellitus is linked to nearly 60 genes. For example, a gene with a code name ‘KCNJ11’ in a normal healthy configuration regulates how much potassium our body cells take. However, mutations in this particular gene can result in producing too much insulin, i.e., hyperinsulinemia, which is a hallmark of diabetes. WHO gives access to the research that proves it.

Environmental Factors

The polluted environment and the contamination of the areas we inhabit is, perhaps, the most underestimated factor contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes. Substances contained in non-recycled plastic, synthetic makeup products, and many household chemicals intrude into the normal functioning of the endocrine system, causing almost irreversible changes.

How to Identify Genes of This Type

Extensive genetic studies of the two last decades have proven that some people have a genetic predisposition to develop type 2 diabetes. Genome-wide association studies have discovered more than 65 genetic combinations that top up the risks of getting type 2 diabetes by 10-30%. Scientists use cross-sectional and longitudinal studies to find out how these genetic variants influence people’s health. Still, it remains a challenge to explain what impact certain gene-gene and gene-environment interactions will have on the development of diabetes.

In terms of what genetic testing is available for type 2 diabetes right now, there are valid genetic tests one can make in both commercial and scientific laboratories. Such tests help you see the genes that might be involved in creating favorable conditions for type 2 diabetes.

Sequencing and identifying these genes, especially at the early stages of the illness, can help you choose the best treatment. For instance, if MODY 1 or MODY 3 shows that there are HNF4A and HNF1A genes that have been changing, patients might be prescribed an appropriate dose of sulfonylurea pills instead of the usual treatment with injections of insulin. This accuracy can lead to a correct statement of diagnosis and faster improvements. Medical screening like this can also aid in identifying whether diabetes is monogenic (caused by the changes in 1 gene) or polygenic.

The Production of Glucose

Among hundreds of genes with thousands of vital functions, there are certain ones that are famous in scientific research as the ones that regulate the production of glucose. Glucose homeostasis often relies on chromosomal protein HMGA1, which is also responsible for DNA repair, cellular buildup processes, and transcription of genes. The study in 2018 has revealed that the same protein is efficient for making and using glucose. Consequently, the lack of this vital protein results in insulin resistance and, later, diabetes.

The Production and Regulation of Insulin

In a normal condition, the gene called INS gives directions for producing the hormone insulin that controls the blood sugar levels. However, in people who have the disorder of this gene, insulin injections substitute its work.

How Glucose Levels Are Sensed in the Body

How glucose levels are sensed in the body

The human brain has special central and peripheral glucose-sensing neurons that grant the body’s ability to respond to rising sugar levels. Every time it increases, beta cells react, and insulin is released into the blood. For instance, a few hours after a meal, the body remains in the post-absorptive state. After it, the glucose level falls down, and neural cells tell the body to release the hormone glucagon (this time, by alpha cells), which is opposite to insulin. For seeing more details of these processes, see the chart above.

Which Genetic Testing Are Available for It

According to the information given by NCBI, among the options for genetic screening to find out the risk of type 2 diabetes, a method of ‘Metabochip’ shows high productivity. It is able to identify over 250,000 functional genetic variants to study the reasons for type 2 diabetes development.

MODY tests are also popular for finding out the reasons and right methods of treatment. Since over 80% of patients in the United States are misdiagnosed, it makes sense to take the additional genetic screening. Predictive medicine, in its turn, will soon be able to give us more accurate forecasts for the prevention of genetic type 2 diabetes in young people, elderly citizens, and even newborns.

Prevention of Type 2 Diabetes

Even if the world of science gives a positive answer to the question, ‘Can type 2 diabetes be genetic?’ it must not be an excuse to remain passive about your physical activity, diet, habits, and behavior. By bringing simple but regular changes into your everyday routine, you can, in fact, eliminate the risks and grant a brighter future to you and the future generations in your family. For example, to raise awareness and prevent type 2 diabetes, DPPOS is an effective program to take.

Tips for Diabetes Prevention

If you are already here, it means you care. Follow a set of simple recommendations given by health experts, and you will see how the changes will make you stay motivated.

1. Quit bad habits.  If you are still not convinced about the harmful effect of smoking, we will just leave the statistical data here. Smokers have twice more chances of developing diabetes. Those who are fond of alcohol must also cut down on anything stronger than tea since frequent doses of alcohol lead to weight gain. Plus, minimizing alcohol will also free you from the risks of cardiovascular disease.
2. Improve your diet and meal planning. First and foremost, you should minimize the intake of salt and sugar, which is super high in all processed foods like sausages, hamburgers, and meals you take on the go. Such food makes you overweight if consumed too often. That is also a good reason for planning 3 daily meals in advance or at least having frozen vegetables in case you are short of time.
3. Exercise right. Despite the fashion for hard training with metal and bodybuilding, you do not have to go to extremes. A program of fitness, stretching, or just 2-3 jogging sessions a week will be fairly enough for raising your activity without overloading physical work in the gym.
4. See your doctor on a regular basis. Sometimes it is hard to control your blood pressure without a medical worker. Many women have the problem of high pressure during and after pregnancy. But you don’t have to deal with it on your own. As you grow older, make sure there is a doctor you signed a contract with who checks your health condition once in a while.

Type 2 Diabetes Warnings and Risks

It seems that the key factors that happen to be drivers for prediabetes and type 2 diabetes have been clarified. Yet, it is vital to warn those who don’t think they will ever get diabetes. Even if you are happy to be in excellent health, don’t forget to work for perspective and maintain your healthy lifestyle by sticking to the right habits and gradually adding new ones.

At last, there are some early warnings (in this case, top 5) that could be useful for many people to identify the disease at the early stages or while it still can be prevented.

1. Very frequent urination. The mechanism is simple here – when cells are trying to get rid of extra glucose, the kidneys start to work more intensively to get sugar out of the blood.
2. Blurred eyesight. The human eye has got very fragile vessels that react to such radical changes as insulin resistance. If you don’t contact your doctor about this issue, the condition can become worse.
3. Feeling hungry all the time. Since glucose equals fuel for our bodies, and during prediabetes, there is too little of it making its way into the cells, our smart organism tries to fulfill this need by craving more food.
4. Cuts tend to heal slowly. Damaged blood vessels and tightly connected to impairment in blood circulation. As a result, even insignificant wounds and cuts take weeks to heal.
5. Areas of dark skin. As a rule, people complain of dark armpits or creases close to the neck, and this can be a condition making a solid reason for concern.
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