Common genes raise diabetes risk, study finds

July 26, 2016— Experts have long known that a person’s risk for getting type 2 diabetes is partly related to genes. But now, a large new study is shining a much brighter light on the disease’s genetic component.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious health problem that affects roughly 1 in 10 people worldwide. Learning more about why some people are more likely to get the disease than others can help scientists develop more effective treatments.

About the study

Researchers studied the DNA of more than 120,000 people of European, South and East Asian, North and South American, and African descent. They compared the genetic information from people without diabetes to those with type 2 diabetes.

They found that most of the genetic risk for diabetes comes from certain common gene changes, or variants. Each of these changes plays a small part in raising a person’s overall diabetes risk.

This knowledge can help scientists find new treatments that take a person’s individual genetic profile into account. However, researchers say more studies are still needed to learn about the gene variants in other groups of people.

Read more about the study in Nature.

The take-home message
Your family history might put you at a higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. But that doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to get the disease, says the American Diabetes Association.

Even if you’re predisposed to diabetes, there are plenty of risk factors that you have the power to change. These include:

Being overweight.
Having high blood sugar.
Having high blood pressure.
Having high cholesterol.
Being inactive.
Smoking.
Eating an unhealthy diet.
Talk with your doctor about first steps toward a healthier lifestyle. You might decide to try to eat a healthier diet or exercise more. That can help you lose weight and improve your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. If you smoke, it’s important to come up with a plan for quitting. Your doctor can help with that too.

Want to learn more about diabetes prevention? Test your knowledge and find out about your risk factors with this short quiz.

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