Is Type 2 Diabetes Genetic? Or Lifestyle?

Published on 
June 18, 2024
May 7, 2024
Virta Health
Virta Health
Virta Health

It ran in her family, but when Virta member Casey was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, it still took her as a surprise. “I had previously known that I was predisposed to getting it, as it’s hereditary on my dad’s side of the family, but it was still depressing,” she remembers. 

Luckily, genetics are not the only thing that determine if you develop type 2 diabetes. By working with a Virta Health coach to make healthier lifestyle choices, Casey was able to lose weight and reverse her diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Many people who are diagnosed ask themselves similar questions to Casey. “Is type 2 diabetes genetic? Are my genes to blame for my type 2 diabetes diagnosis?” The truth is that no matter how many people in your family have developed glucose intolerance or insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes is avoidable. 

Here’s what you need to know about the link between genetics and type 2 diabetes.

The Link Between Genes and Type 2 Diabetes

Multiple genes make it more likely for a person to develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Type 2 diabetes is a complex, multifactorial disease influenced by multiple genes in combination with environmental and lifestyle factors. These genes can include genes that affect insulin secretion and release, genes responsible for moving glucose, genes responsible for releasing and regulating glucose, and so on.

However, lifestyle, and environmental factors play an equally important role  in contributing to the development of type 2 diabetes. Your genetics may make it more likely for you to develop type 2 diabetes, but before that can happen, something else (like your diet, or your weight, or how much exercise you get) needs to trigger it.

That’s why in studies of identical twins, both twins developed type 2 diabetes only 75% of the time. True, that’s a huge percentage. But identical twins have identical genetics. The fact that it’s not 100% means that type 2 diabetes is not a congenital condition in the same way that cystic fibrosis is, for example. 

Lifestyle and Environmental Factors

What this means is that no matter how many people in your family have type 2 diabetes, it may be possible to avoid a diagnosis. Whether or not you develop type 2 diabetes may be influenced by your genes, but it’s activated by your lifestyle choices, as well as environmental factors. 

Lifestyle factors that can directly influence whether or not you develop type 2 diabetes include your diet, your BMI, whether you are sedentary or active, and so on. Environmental and social factors that may contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes include pollution, socioeconomic factors such as low income level, and access to nutritious food options.

Mind those choices and factors, and you may never develop insulin resistance or type 2 diabetes, no matter what your genes say.

The Takeaway

Even if you have a genetic predisposition towards developing type 2 diabetes, Virta Health can help you avoid or even reverse a diagnosis. By making healthy lifestyle changes in a medical setting with supportive resources like 1:1 virtual coaching, you can regain control of your health and feel like yourself again. See if you’re eligible for Virta Health here.

This blog is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or any advice relating to your health. View full disclaimer

Are you living with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, or unwanted weight?

Check to see if your health plan or employer covers Virta
Check Eligibility

Frequently Asked Questions

No items found.