Understanding the Role of Genes in Developing Diabetes, Is Type 2 Diabetes Hereditary?

Understanding the Role of Genes in Developing Diabetes, Is Type 2 Diabetes Hereditary?

Golden gene in DNAMany people wonder if their parents’ history of type 2diabetes (T2D) puts them at an increased risk of getting it. Chances are, if you were recently diagnosed with diabetes, someone else in your family has already had it.According to the American Diabetes Association, your risk of developing diabetes is 10-15% if either of your parents has it. If both of your parents have T2D, your risk of developing it is about 50%. Are the odds against you because of the genes your parents have passed down to you?

Type 2 diabetes is often considered a disease that results from poor life choices. Most people (85%) when diagnosed are overweight, don’t exercise a lot, and have bad eating habits. But, how do you explain the other 15%?Studies looking at twins suggest that there are some genes that are shared between people that may cause diabetes. The risk of getting diabetes if your twin has it is 50-90%, which is much higher than the 10% risk of getting T2D if your non-twin sibling has it. These shared genes between twins may cause changes in the way the body controls blood sugar. There are several gene changes that are associated with T2D that have been discovered. Some examples are changes in the way your body transports sugar, the way your body controls insulin, and the way sugar and insulin are released around your body. There are also 60 different genes that have been found that may affect the development of T2D. Unfortunately, these genes are not consistent from person to person and it has been hard to determine if there are any real patterns across people with diabetes.

Maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) is a subgroup of diabetes that has been linked to family genes. MODY is a form of type 2 diabetes that develops at a younger age than when you would normally see it. Since MODY is almost always passed down in families from generation to generation, researchers have been able to identify a pattern of genes linked to its cause. Six genes have been identified so far that can account for 30% of people with MODY.
Tests are offered to check if you have any genes that are associated with type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, apart from MODY, the connection between genes and development of diabetes is not strong enough to predict if you’ll get it. Other factors are better at estimating your risk of getting diabetes,including your body mass index(BMI), the amount of purposeful exercise you get,and if your blood pressure is controlled or not.

More times than not, diabetes runs in families because of mutual habits and behaviors and not because of genes.Parents often expose their children to certain lifestyles that will increase their chance of getting diabetes in the future. While genes may add to the development of MODY and diabetes in lean patients, this is only a small portion of the total diabetes population. Needless to say, a large majority of people will develop type 2 diabetes for completely preventable reasons.To return to the original question of the odds being against you, the best answer is that they’re probably not. In truth, living a healthy lifestyle by making smart food choices and exercising will likely eliminate most of your risk of developing diabetes.

This article is brought to you by our guest writers:
Damian Bialonczyk, PharmD, MBA, Medical Affairs Fellow, Becton Dickinson, MCPHS University
Kevork Ourfalian, PharmD, Medical Affairs Fellow, Becton Dickinson, MCPHS University
Jennifer Goldman-Levine, PharmD, CDE, BC-ADM, FCCP, Professor of Pharmacy Practice, School of Pharmacy-Boston, MCPHS University, Boston, MA, Clinical Pharmacist, Well Life Medical, Peabody, MA

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