Type II Diabetes-Do Genetics Matter?

A recent study demonstrates that diet and lifestyle factors play a bigger role than genes in determining whether a person will develop Type II Diabetes or not.

Genes are not destiny

To study diabetes risk, researchers enrolled 5,535 healthy British men and women, with an average age of 49 years into a study. After following these people for 10 years, 302 of them developed type 2 diabetes.

The researchers studied how well the Cambridge and Framingham risk scores predicted who developed diabetes in the group. They also looked at how 20 genetic changes that increase diabetes risk affected the ability to predict type 2 diabetes risk in the group.

Adding the genes to the risk scores did not significantly improve the ability to determine who would develop diabetes. In other words age, gender, family history of diabetes, body weight, smoking, and blood levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood sugar are more effective for determining diabetes risk than genes.

You have the power to defeat diabetes

The most exciting thing about this study is that it tells us that we each have the power to positively affect our own health. Two important factors that affect diabetes risk–body weight and smoking–are within our control. By maintaining a healthy body weight and not smoking, we can lessen the chances that we develop diabetes, even if we have “diabetes genes.”

You can’t change your family medical history, age, or gender, but you can make your health a priority starting today. A healthy diet and regular exercise will keep obesity at bay and reduce diabetes risk.

(BMJ 2010;340:b4838. doi:10.1136/bmj.b4838; National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse. National Diabetes Statistics, 2007. Accessed February 13, 2010. Available: http://diabetes.niddk.nih.gov/DM/PUBS/statistics/#allages)