Does type 2 diabetes run in families?

You are at a higher risk factor for type 2 diabetes if one of your immediate family members, such as a parent or sibling, has developed this condition. Know your family medical history. Sharing this history with your doctor is an extremely important step in delaying or preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Family history is definitely a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This can be aggravated by obesity, lack of activity, and dietary choices. So, environmental factors can also trigger the onset of type 2 diabetes earlier than just having genetic risk as a person's main risk factor.

Trinity Health is a Catholic health care organization that acts in accordance with the Catholic tradition and does not condone or support all practices covered in this site. In case of emergency call 911. This site is educational and not a substitute for professional medical advice, always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider.

Type 2 diabetes does run in families. A person with a first-degree relative (parent or sibling, for example) with type 2 diabetes is at increased risk of acquiring the disease.

Unlike some traits, diabetes does not seem to be inherited in a simple pattern. Yet clearly, some people are born more likely to get diabetes than others.

Type 1 and type 2 diabetes have different causes. Yet two factors are important in both. You inherit a predisposition to the disease then something in your environment triggers it.

Genes alone are not enough. One proof of this is identical twins. Identical twins have identical genes. Yet when one twin has type 1 diabetes, the other gets the disease at most only half the time. When one twin has type 2 diabetes, the other's risk is at most 3 in 4.

Type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to family history and lineage than type 1, although it too depends on environmental factors. Studies of twins have shown that genetics play a very strong role in the development of type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle also influences the development of type 2 diabetes. Obesity tends to run in families, and families tend to have similar eating and exercise habits.

If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, it may be difficult to figure out whether your diabetes is due to lifestyle factors or genetic susceptibility. Most likely it is due to both. However, don’t lose heart. Studies show that it is possible to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes by exercising and losing weight.

Dr. Douglas S. Denham, DO
Family Practitioner

Type 2 Diabetes has a strong genetic component, though the specific mutations responsible have not clearly been identified. It also has a strong correlation with certain racial/ethnic groups, especially Native Americans, Hispanics and African Americans. Factors that contribute to the development of diabetes are obesity, sedentary lifestyle, diets high in carbohydrates and family history of diabetes. The good news is that with attention to a healthy diet, weight loss if overweight and exercise, you can prevent the onset of diabetes or manage diabetes more easily.

Continue Learning about Diabetes

The Pancreas and Diabetes
The Pancreas and Diabetes
Take a trip inside the body with this video from Virtual Health Solutions. Get an up-close look at the pancreas, the gland that produces the hormone i...
Read More
What regular check-ups should diabetics get?
Marc I. Lavin, MDMarc I. Lavin, MD
Learn why blood work, eye exams and appointments with a podiatrist are essential to managing diabete...
More Answers
How to Get the Best Possible Care for Your Diabetes
How to Get the Best Possible Care for Your DiabetesHow to Get the Best Possible Care for Your DiabetesHow to Get the Best Possible Care for Your DiabetesHow to Get the Best Possible Care for Your Diabetes
The right backup can help you live well and worry less about complications.
Start Slideshow
What Is the Future of Insulin Delivery and Glucose Monitoring Systems?
What Is the Future of Insulin Delivery and Glucose Monitoring Systems?

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.