What Causes Diabetes?

By  , Expert Content
Sep 13, 2011

Diabetes has become almost an epidemic in adults. The three main types of diabetes are Type 1 diabetes (insulin dependent diabetes mellitus), Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or adult onset diabetes) and gestational diabetes. Type 2 diabetes (non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus or adult onset diabetes) is the commonest type of diabetes. Read to know what causes type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes:


Type 1 diabetes


Type 1 diabetes is thought to be an autoimmune disease. A healthy immune system helps to fight the germs (bacteria and virus) to prevent infection and diseases. But when the immune system attacks the cells in the pancreas that produce insulin it can destroy them and lead to insulin deficiency and type 1 diabetes.

  • Family history: Studies suggest a genetic predisposition in the occurrence of type 1 diabetes. It may run in families.
  • Environmental factors: Some common unavoidable viral infections probably lead to type 1 diabetes.
  • Race: Type 1 diabetes is more common in people of non-Hispanic, Northern European descent (especially Finland and Sardinia), followed by African Americans and Hispanic Americans and is rare in people of Asian descent.
  • Sex: Type 1 diabetes occurs more commonly in boys than girls.


Type 2 diabetes


In people with type 2 diabetes, in the initial stages the pancreas produces enough insulin, but the cells do not respond effectively to insulin due to insulin resistance. This causes increase in blood sugar levels. However, after a few years, insulin production in type 2 diabetes decreases.

  • Family history: Genetic link for type 2 diabetes is stronger— a positive family history is much more likely for type 2 diabetes. The exact gene which causes type 2 diabetes is not known but several genes have been identified.
  • Risk factors: Some factors increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Age: The risk of type 2 diabetes increases with age. Type 2 diabetes is more common in older adults. The risk starts to increase by the age of 45 years, and rises considerably after the age of 65.
  • High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol: Both these conditions increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and several other diseases such as heart attack and stroke.
  • History of Gestational Diabetes: Risk of type 2 diabetes in the future is higher in women with a history of gestational diabetes or a woman who has delivered a baby weighing more than 9 pounds.
  • Eating Habits: Unhealthy eating such as eating processed foods, food high in fats and salt, and diet deficient in whole foods, fruits and vegetables increases the risk of both obesity and diabetes.
  • High alcohol intake.
  • Sedentary lifestyle: A sedentary lifestyle is considered to be a major risk factor for obesity and type 2 diabetes.
  • Race: People belonging to certain racial groups, such as African Americans, Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Japanese Americans, are at greater risk of type 2 diabetes.


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