Is Diabetes Hereditary?


Is there someone in your family who has been diagnosed with diabetes? Is diabetes hereditary? Is diabetes a trait that can pass from one generation to the next? These are common questions about diabetes, a metabolic disorder. The short answer is yes, diabetes is a genetic disorder, and so if one or both parents have it, you are more at risk. However, a family member with diabetes only increases your risk; it does not necessitate you will definitely have it. There are other risk factors, such as diet, lifestyle and obesity that are also risk factors.

Is Diabetes Hereditary – Understanding What Causes Diabetes

Metabolism and blood sugar – Diabetes milletus (diabetes) is a malfunction of the body’s metabolism. Diabetes causes abnormal levels of blood sugar. When sugar and starchy foods are eaten, they are broken down into glucose.

Glucose is used as energy to fuel the body. Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas. This hormone plays a vital role in helping cells absorb glucose. If there is insufficient production of insulin, cells do not absorb glucose properly and blood sugar rises. Blood sugar also increases if cells do not respond to insulin appropriately.

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the body does not produce any insulin. It is usually diagnosed in child and young adults, and was once called juvenile diabetes. Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body produces less insulin than what is required, or when the insulin doesn’t work appropriately. It is most commonly diagnosed in persons over 40.

Type 2 diabetes, often called non-insulin dependent diabetes, is the most common form of diabetes, affecting 90% – 95% of the 19.7 million Americans with diabetes. Its increased prevalence is linked to growing obesity rates. It is responsible for the diabetes epidemic that is happening in the western world.

Today diabetes is one of the most common conditions. From 1980 through 2009, the number of Americans with diabetes more than tripled (from 5.6 million to 19.7 million). And almost thirty-two percent of the people that have diabetes are not aware of their condition.

The D for Diabetes Diet by Sherri Shepard

Related Diabetes Stories

Is Diabetes Hereditary : Your Genetic Risk

Type 1 diabetes and Type 2 diabetes can be caused by your genes. Your risk factor depends on whether mom, dad or both parents have it.

Type 1 Diabetes:

  • Both parents: If both parents have Type 1 diabetes, there is a thirty percent chance that their offspring will also have it.
  • Dad with diabetes: if your father has Type 1 diabetes, your risk factor falls to 6 percent.
  • Mom with diabetes: if your mother has Type 1 diabetes, your chances of diabetes are 4 percent if you were born before she was 25 or 1 percent if you were born after she was 25 years old.

Type 2 Diabetes:

  • Both parents: If both parents have Type 2 diabetes, there is a seventy five percent chance that their offspring will also have it.
  • Mom or Dad with diabetes: If one of your parents has been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes before the age of 50, your chances of having it are 14 percent. Your risk decreases to 8 percent if your parent was diagnosed after the age of 50.

Is Diabetes Hereditary: Other Risk Factors

As well as genetics, a number of other environmental and lifestyle factors can put you at risk for diabetes.

Type 1 Diabetes Risk Factors

Outside of genetics, there are not many known risk factors for diabetes.

  • Ethnicity: You are at an increased risk of type 1 diabetes if your ethnicity is: African American, Hispanic, Mediterranean or Northern European.
  • Vitamin D: Research suggests that lack of Vitamin D may be a risk factor for diabetes. If you live in a northern climate, consider taking a Vitamin D supplement which can help protect against a number of diseases.
  • Autoimmune Conditions: Type 1 diabetes is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the cells of the pancreas. Studies show you are more at risk if you have had one of the autoimmune conditions that weaken the body’s defenses: Addison’s disease, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, Grave’s disease, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Vitiligo.
  • Some Viruses. Studies show that exposure to certain viruses including, Epstein-Barr virus, coxsackievirus, momps virus, cytomegalovirus or enteroviruses – may trigger the autoimmune destruction of the islet cells, or the virus may directly infect the islet cells.

Type 2 Diabetes Risk Factors

The growing incidence of Type 2 diabetes is linked to the obesity epidemic. An active lifestyle, regular exercise, a good diet, and a healthy body weight will all help lower your chances of Type 2 diabetes.

  • Obesity: The number one risk factor for Type 2 diabetes is obesity. Greater weight means a higher risk of insulin resistance, because fat interferes with the body’s ability to use insulin.
  • Inactivity: Muscle cells have more insulin receptors than fat cells, so a person can decrease insulin resistance by exercising. Being more active also lowers blood sugar levels by helping insulin to be more effective.
  • Age:  The risk of Type 2 diabetes increases as you get older, especially after age 45. However it is more common in older people. Among U.S. residents ages 65 years and older, 10.9 million, or 26.9 percent have diabetes.
  • High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol: Having HDL cholesterol under 35 mg/dL or blood pressure greater than or equal to 140/90 mmHg are both risk factors for diabetes and other diseases.
  • Unhealthy Diet. 90 percent of people who have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are overweight. Too much fat, not enough fiber, and too many starchy and processed foods all make a diabetes diagnosis more likely. Eating healthily can reverse or prevent Type 2.


Diabetes is a metabolic disorder that occurs when there is insufficient insulin production in the pancreas. Insulin is an important hormone that turns food (glucose) into energy. Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes can be passed genetically; however there are other environmental and lifestyle risk factors. Type 2 is the most common form of diabetes, and its epidemic is linked to the growing obesity rates. An active lifestyle, regular exercise, a good diet, and a healthy body weight will reduce your chances and help prevent Type 2 diabetes.