Diabetes – Is It Genetics or Lifestyle?

 In Topics of Interest

This is a common question and I believe a common misconception among many in the U.S. Many people believe that because they have a family history of diabetes that they themselves are predestined to have it too.  Ironically, they don’t seem to consider the fact that their lifestyle is the same, they eat the same foods they grew up with, they have the same physical activity level as their parents, but seems to think it’s all genetic and hopeless.  I don’t believe that and neither does the American Diabetes Association.  Here is an excerpt from an article in January 2017:

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.


The ADA reports that over 70% of Type 2 Diabetes can be prevented!  That implies that it is more about a family’s ties to a lifestyle than to their DNA.  If you grew up eating fried, highly processed, high carb foods just like your parents that have diabetes, guess what, if you don’t change the way you eat you will likely get diabetes too.

Let’s look at the Pima Indians.  A study looked at the Pima Indians in the US and the Pima Indians south of the border in Mexico.  When they were forced onto the reservation many chose to head south and continue to live their traditional lifestyle.  They share the same genetic makeup, but the Pima’s in the U.S. have over a 40% instance of Type 2 Diabetes and their cousins south of the border, less than 5%.  Why is that, it’s their activity level and what they eat.  Our western diet, especially a subsidized diet is highly processed, high in carbs and high in fat (the wrong fat).

Diabetes – Is it genetics or lifestyle?

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment