Is Diabetes Genetic? Facts You Must Know

By Shantanu Sodhi +2 more

Diabetes Mellitus (DM) generally tends to run in families. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes recently, it is likely that you will find a history of diabetic relatives in your family tree. The question is –  Is diabetes a genetic disease? People with diabetes often wonder about the chances of passing this condition to their children or the likelihood of developing the disease if their parents have it. 

Your genes definitely play a role in developing diabetes. Having a family history of diabetes raises your chances of acquiring the condition. However, diabetes mellitus is caused by a host of different factors, including genes. Not everyone may inherit the gene, and even if they do, it’s possible to avoid the disease successfully. 

The impact of genetic factors varies according to the different types of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is caused by genetic factors mostly, whereas environmental factors heavily influence type 2 diabetes. To understand if diabetes is a genetic disease, we need to understand the role of different factors in developing the disease. 

Is Type 1 Diabetes Genetic? 

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune condition wherein the body attacks its own immune system, leading to the destruction of the pancreas cells responsible for producing insulin. This hormone helps in carrying sugar into the cells for the production of energy. This condition results in hyperglycemia (increased blood sugar levels) and requires the affected person to take insulin injections to restore the insulin their body doesn’t create. 

Children or young adults are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. 

Is Type 1 diabetes caused by genetic factors? Yes, genes can play an important part in developing this disease, but that’s not the only reason. This is seen even in identical twins who share the same set of genes. Sometimes one twin might get type 1 DM, whereas the other won’t. This is where environmental factors can play a role. 

Possible Risk Factors for Type 1 Diabetes 

  • Climate: People living in cooler temperatures are more likely to develop type 1 diabetes. The disease is also more likely to onset during the winter months. 
  • Viral Infections: It is possible that certain viruses can trigger type 1 diabetes in some people. 
  • Early Diet: Your diet as a child may also play a role. People who were breastfed while being introduced to solid food are less likely to develop type 1 diabetes mellitus.

Type 1 diabetes can evolve over time, and there might be certain factors that cause the trigger of autoimmune antibodies that cause type 1. Once a person has developed type 1, the condition can’t be cured, but it is manageable through medical intervention. 

Is Type 2 Diabetes Genetic? 

Type 2 DM is the most common type of diabetes. Globally 6.28% of the world’s population is afflicted by type 2 diabetes mellitus. As seen in type 1, people affected with type 2 are more likely to have a family history of this diabetes type. 

Type 2 diabetes is genetic too but, unlike type 1, genetics have a smaller role to play in this case. Environmental factors and daily lifestyle have a more significant impact on developing this condition. 

Possible Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

  • Being obese or having a high body mass index (BMI) of 25-40 or greater. 
  • People aged 45 or older
  • A sedentary lifestyle with minimum physical activity
  • High cholesterol level
  • High blood pressure 
  • History of gestational diabetes, diabetes that occurs during pregnancy
  • History of cardiac diseases 
  • Women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome
  • Depression 
  • Drug-Induced 

People with two or more risk factors are more vulnerable to developing type 2. 

What can One do if Diabetes Runs in the Family?

  1. Type 1: Type 1 diabetes is genetic; hence the hereditary factors that play a role in developing this condition cannot be totally done away with. However, if type 1 runs into your family, you can implement a few methods to lower the risk. 
  • Breastfeed your infant up to the age of six months. 
  • Try to minimise your child’s exposure to viral infections and ensure that they get all the necessary vaccinations during their childhood. 
  • Enforce good hygiene practices such as hand washing, especially before eating the food and good food habits too. 
  1. Type 2: Experts believe that making positive lifestyle changes can play a significant role in preventing the development of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes mellitus causes are several; all these factors causing DM can be managed to lower your risk by implementing certain lifestyle changes.
  • Maintain a healthy body weight: If you are overweight, now is a good time to shed those extra kilos. Losing 5-7 per cent of your initial weight can significantly reduce your chances of developing type 2 DM.
  • Stay physically fit: To counteract a sedentary lifestyle, start working out for at least 150 minutes every week. You can choose to do moderate-intensity activity such as walking daily or sweat it out with about 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. 
  • Eat a balanced diet: Include fruits and a wide variety of vegetables into your diet to lower your risk of type 2 DM. Eat fibre rich foods and avoid eating processed food with high sugar content. 
  • Quit smoking and drinking: A healthy lifestyle begins with curbing unhealthy habits. Quit smoking and cut back on alcohol to mitigate the risk of developing Type 2 DM.
  • Regular Health Checkups: If you fall in the age group of 45 years and above, start routine screenings to identify early signs of diabetes type 2. People with other risk factors like obesity should opt for screenings from an earlier age.  


Diabetes mellitus is a complex disease that can be caused by multiple factors. It is normal to wonder if diabetes is a genetic condition or not, especially when one has family members who have diabetes. However, diabetes mellitus is caused by several other reasons besides just genetic factors. Once you identify the probable factors and causes of diabetes mellitus, you can modify your habits and reduce your chances of developing diabetes.

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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