Does type 2 diabetes run in families?

Parveen K. Verma, DO
Endocrinology Diabetes & Metabolism
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.

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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.

Have you recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes?  Join our free Living With Type 2 Diabetes program and the information and support you need to live well with diabetes.

More Information on Genetics

If you would like to learn more about the genetics of all forms of diabetes, the National Institutes of Health has recently published The Genetic Landscape of Diabetes. This free online book provides an overview of the current knowledge about the genetics of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well other less common forms of diabetes. The book is written for health professionals and for people with diabetes interested in learning more about the disease.


Douglas S. Denham, DO
Family Medicine

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.

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.

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.