Diabetes and genetics

Type 1 and 2 diabetes have different causes, yet they hold a genetic resemblance. It is possible to inherit a predisposition for diabetes, meaning that you might develop it. It is up to your lifestyle and environment to activate it.


There are some differences in the genetic pattern for type 1 and type 2 diabetes, so even though they both hold genetic predisposition, it takes different measures to activate the disease.

The difference in genetics for the two types of diabetes

Type 1 diabetes: Most commonly you will have to inherit risk factors of diabetes from both of your parents. If both of your parents have diabetes, you have a 30% increased risk of developing it too, whereas if only on of them has it, you have a 2-8% risk. But not everyone at risk will get diabetes and hence research is needed to establish the environmental factors, to find out what triggers the diabetes in some people, and stays dormant in others.

A suspected trigger is cold weather, since diabetes 1 tends to be developed in the winter months rather than during the summer. Also certain viruses could be a potential trigger for predisposed diabetics.

Type 2 diabetes: For reasons unknown, type 2 diabetes has stronger familial bonds. If both of your parents have type 2 diabetes, you are at a 75% increased risk of developing it too. If only one of them have it, you are at a 15% risk.

What is important to remember, is that genes alone do not carry the responsibility for developing type 2 diabetes. Your lifestyle and environment plays a bigger role than in type 1 diabetes. Usually poor diet and exercise habits “run in the family”, so if (either of) your parents have type 2 diabetes and your family also has an unhealthy lifestyle, it is not necessarily the predisposition that is the cause of your diabetes. It is likely due to your lifestyle choices.

Last updated: 28/01/2019

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