Is Type 1 Diabetes Genetic?

Last Editorial Review: 5/10/2018

Ask the experts

My uncle and grandfather on my mother's side have type 1 diabetes. I'm pregnant and I'm worried about the risk of diabetes to my unborn baby. Is type 1 diabetes genetic?

Doctor’s Response

There is a strong genetic link with type 1 diabetes. This can be tested for by looking at the human leukocyte antigen (HLA) genotype. First-degree relatives are at higher risk. However, with any genetic condition, it is important to remember that gene expression changes in response to the epigenetic (nutritional) environment, and risk factors can be addressed with a health-care professional or nutrition/functional/naturopathic practitioner knowledgeable about epigenetics.

Risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes include: prenatal exposures, exposures to foods and environmental toxins early in life, and geography.

  • Prenatal exposures include maternal had preeclampsia or metabolic syndrome .
  • Environmental exposures include chemicals, especially those found in plastics and foods, specifically introduction of gluten, casein (the protein in dairy) or fruit before four months of age or late introduction (after seven months of age) grains (gluten, oat, and rice) and casein.
  • Viral infections, such as Epstein-Barr virus or EBV (mononucleosis), Coxsackie, CMV, and other infections can also be risk factors for developing type 1 diabetes.
  • Living in a northern climate is a risk factor that has not been fully explained.

For more information, read our full medical article on type 1 diabetes.


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