Is Type 1 Diabetes Genetic?

  • Medical Author:
    Erica Oberg, ND, MPH

    Dr. Erica Oberg, ND, MPH, received a BA in anthropology from the University of Colorado, her doctorate of naturopathic medicine (ND) from Bastyr University, and a masters of public health (MPH) in health services research from the University of Washington. She completed her residency at the Bastyr Center for Natural Health in ambulatory primary care and fellowship training at the Health Promotion Research Center at the University of Washington.

  • Medical Editor: Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP
    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Jerry R. Balentine, DO, FACEP

    Dr. Balentine received his undergraduate degree from McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. He attended medical school at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine graduating in1983. He completed his internship at St. Joseph's Hospital in Philadelphia and his Emergency Medicine residency at Lincoln Medical and Mental Health Center in the Bronx, where he served as chief resident.

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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REFERENCES:

Akerblom HK, Vaarala O, Hyöty H, Ilonen J, Knip M. "Environmental factors in the etiology of type 1 diabetes." Am J Med Genet. 2002 May 30;115(1):18-29.

Antvorskov JC, Josefsen K, Engkilde K, Funda DP, Buschard K. "Dietary gluten and the development of type 1 diabetes." Diabetologia. 2014 Sep;57(9):1770-80.

Bodin J., et al. "Can exposure to environmental chemicals increase the risk of diabetes type 1 development?" Biomed Res Int. 2015;2015:208947.

Frederiksen, B., et al. "Infant Exposures and Development of Type 1 Diabetes Mellitus: The Diabetes Autoimmunity Study in the Young (DAISY)." JAMA pediatrics. 2013;167(9):808-815.

Morgan, MP., et al. "Imunogenetics of type 1 diabetes mellitus." Mol Aspects Med. 2015 Apr;42:42-60.

Moss SE, Klein R, Klein BEK, Meuer MS. "The association of glycemia and cause-specific mortality in a diabetic population." Arch Int Med 154:2473–2479, 1994.

Schuppan D, Hahn EG. "Celiac disease and its link to type 1 diabetes mellitus." J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2001;14 Suppl 1:597-605.

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Reviewed on 5/10/2018