Diabetes as we all know refers to a group of metabolic diseases that is caused by the inability of the human body cells to respond properly to insulin or the body doesn’t produce enough insulin resulting to high blood glucose (sugar). Common symptoms of this ailment include; feeling very thirsty, fatigue, blurred vision, slow healing of cuts and bruises, weight loss, pain and numbness in the hands or feet, genital itching, frequent bowel movements especially at night, etc.
To start with, let us look at the two different types of diabetes mellitus. There are two popular types of diabetes; the Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is the one mostly seen in children and young people in which the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin thereby causing little or no production of insulin. These immune systems that destroy such cells are known as autoimmune. This results to a need for insulin injection because without this hormone, the cells cannot absorb sugar.
Type 2 diabetes on the other hand is the type that occurs in adults and is caused mainly due to obesity, women can develop the disease during pregnancy , high sugar, starch and meat diet etc.
There are so many beliefs and/or misconceptions about diabetes and what causes it. One of them is the fact that diabetes is hereditary. This fact is not 100% true. This question is asked on so many quarters with diverse viewpoints. The whole truth about this is that we do not inherit diabetes from our parents or family but, people do inherit dispositions to diabetes and this makes it easy for someone to get this ailment once exposed to the environment that triggers it. This means that if someone’s parents or grandparents are diabetic; their offspring may or may not have diabetes depending on the gene he or she inherited.
We know that any traits we inherit are enshrined in our genes. Having said this, there is a need to understand some of these traits that predisposes someone to diabetes. For example, any mutation in the gene that is involved in the control of glucose levels, production of insulin, glucose sensing mechanisms of the body, will definitely increase the chances of an offspring getting diabetes.
Environmental factors that could trigger diabetes in patients that have inherited diabetes predispositions include weather changes (mostly during summer), viruses, diets and lifestyle of the person, etc.
To buttress the point that diabetes is not hereditary but its predispositions are (i.e. if it is contained in an offspring’s gene), a research was conducted by some researchers at the Lund University in Sweden performed experiments on 14 pairs of identical twins. These selected pairs of identical twins had parents who were diabetic and in them, one had T2D(type 2 diabetes) while the other was healthy. They explained this using the fact that the one who had T2D must have inherited the genetic predisposition and then had external factors in like eating habits/diet that led to the ailment. (lunduniversity.lu.se/article/study-of-identical-twins-reveals-type-2-diabetes-clues).
Eating habits of a family contribute a lot to causing diabetes. Foods like highly processed carbohydrates (e.g. those made with white flour, white sugar, white rice, etc.), sugar-sweetened drinks, saturated and trans fats, red and processed meats, etc. are diets that can easily lead to diabetes especially if someone inherited genetic predisposition.
From this, it can be concluded that someone whose parents or grandparents have diabetes can only inherit predisposition to diabetes if it is in his or her gene. Also, having this predisposition doesn’t mean he or she must have diabetes. The diabetes comes when he or she is exposed to environmental factors that trigger it.
Note: Many studies have shown that eating a plant based diet can prevent diabetes as well as reverse the disease.
Here is a video from Dr. Greger the author of the New York Times best selling book “How not to Die” on the topic of “How not to die from Diabetes”.