How do genetics influence the onset of diabetes?

Everyone is born with a set of instructions that tells the cells in your body how to grow, live, and function. These instructions lie in the particular chemical sequence of units known as bases, which make up the DNA in every cell in your body. Each cell in your body contains 46 chromosomes, which are made up of DNA and protein. Each DNA strand is like a long string that contains millions of bases. Along the strand lie the genes, unique segments of DNA that tell your cells what kind of protein to make. But just as books sometimes contain typographical errors, so too does the sequence of DNA. If there is a mistake, or mutation, in the DNA within a gene, then a faulty protein may be made that can’t do its job. Scientists are trying to determine how mistakes in specific genes cause diabetes. If mutated genes occur in germ cells—the eggs and sperm—then the DNA mutations can be passed on from generation to generation.

Continue Learning about Diabetes


Diabetes mellitus (MEL-ih-tus), often referred to as diabetes, is characterized by high blood glucose (sugar) levels that result from the body’s inability to produce enough insulin and/or effectively utilize the insulin. Diabetes ...

is a serious, life-long condition and the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Diabetes is a disorder of metabolism (the body's way of digesting food and converting it into energy). There are three forms of diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that accounts for five- to 10-percent of all diagnosed cases of diabetes. Type 2 diabetes may account for 90- to 95-percent of all diagnosed cases. The third type of diabetes occurs in pregnancy and is referred to as gestational diabetes. Left untreated, gestational diabetes can cause health issues for pregnant women and their babies. People with diabetes can take preventive steps to control this disease and decrease the risk of further complications.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.