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How is Diabetes Inherited?

By  ,  Onlymyhealth editorial team
May 28, 2013
4.8 / 5(4 Ratings)

How is Diabetes Inherited

Diabetes, one of the most common diseases, is often considered hereditary. Though Diabetes does not have very simple inheritance pattern, there is definitely some genetic influence. Added to the predisposition of some people to get diabetes, the environment also plays a role. For type 1, the environmental factor could be exposure to some kind of virus or toxin, which may act as a trigger. Type 1 diabetes is more common in places with a cold climate, but people who were breastfed seem to be more resistant to this condition.

[Read: Is Type 2 Diabetes a Genetic Disorder]

For type 2, the environmental trigger could be over-eating coupled with a sedentary lifestyle. Obesity is a condition, which generally runs in families, and so this condition tends to be strongly linked to lineage.

For any comprehension of inheritance of diabetes, it becomes important to understand the two forms of diabetes:

TYPE 1 DIABETES: This is generally known as insulin-dependent diabetes i.e. the treatment requires insulin injections. This form is more severe and occurs in younger people.

TYPE 2 DIABETES: This form is the non-insulin dependent diabetes and can be controlled with diet and tablets. This mostly afflicts the older people, but, due to unhealthy lifestyle patterns, many children and adolescents are also getting diabetes type 2.

Though type 2 diabetes occurs in adulthood, it seems to have a more genetic base. In case of identical twins, who share 100% of their genetic material, if one twin develops type 1 diabetes, the risk factor for the other to get it is 10 to 20 %, but, if one of them has type 2 diabetes, the other is at a 90% risk of developing it.

[Read: Lifestyle Changes can Keep Diabetes Away]

Inheritance of Type 1 Diabetes


It has been seen that when relatives of people with diabetes type 1 were examined, most of them who eventually developed diabetes, had certain autoantibodies (the antibodies, which attack own body tissues) in their blood.

Age of the parent is also important in the matter of diabetes inheritance. If you are a woman with this form of diabetes and your child was born before 25years of age, there are least chances of her or him getting the disease. However, if you had your child at a later age, then his or her risk of getting diabetes increases. If you are a man, then the risk of your child getting diabetes type 1 are also rare.

Also, people with immune system disorders have a much higher risk of their children suffering from diabetes type 1.

This type of diabetes is also more prevalent in whites with genes called HLA-DR3 or HLA-DR4 and their progeny is also at a higher risk. Likewise, the African-Americans are at higher risk, because of the HLA-DR7 and the Japanese because of the HLA-DR9 gene.

An expensive test to estimate the risk of children with siblings with type 1 diabetes is to measure antibodies to insulin, or to an enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase. Higher the level more is the risk of the child developing type 1 diabetes.

[Read: Diabetes Myths Busted]

Inheritance of Type 2 Diabetes


This form of diabetes is generally caused due to unhealthy lifestyle and tends to run in families. Apart from bad habits like poor diets and lack of exercise, it also has a genetic basis.

Generally, the risk of your passing this diabetes to your children is 1 in 7 before the age of 50. However, after the age of 50, the risk of your child inheriting this health condition is lower, say about 1 in 13. If however, both the parents have diabetes type 2, your child is at a very high risk of getting this disorder, say about 1 in 2.

People with the rare type 2 diabetes have known as maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY) and they have an almost 1 in 2 chance of passing it to their off springs.

Though diabetes has a genetic inheritance, it can easily be controlled with a balanced diet and regular exercise. Regular insulin treatment and a balanced diet with an eye on sugar levels can help control diabetes to a large extent. The related dangers like diabetic retinopathy and trouble with the kidneys often are the causes of concern and need to be taken care of.


Read more articles on Diabetes.

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