Islets of Hope information for persons with diabetes

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Article data compiled by Lahle Wolfe, chart by Lahle Wolfe

Genetics and Diabetes: What's your risk?  Joslin Diabetes Center

NIH PubMed Central: Genetic Analysis of Families with Autoimmune Diabetes and Thyroidisit: Evidence for common and unique genes

Genes can cause type 2 diabetes; Amy Adams MS

Want to Know More About How Genes Play A Role in Diabetes?

To learn more about the genetics of all forms of diabetes read the National Institutes of Health’s online book  “The Genetic Landscape of Diabetes.”  This book, written both for professionals and laypersons, provides an overview of the genetics of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, as well other less common forms of diabetes. 

IOH Mini-Quiz

Q: What type of doctor diagnoses and treats diabetes?

A:  An endocronologist, diabetologist, or other physician specializing in endocrine disorders.

 type 2 diabetes source book  Drum/Zierenberg
The Diabetes Type 2 Sourcebook:  
This book provides all the information readers need to know about living with Type 2 diabetes, including self-management, the most recent findings on nutrition and exercise, the emotional and financial issues that accompany the disease, and the newest testing methods, treatments, and medications. Also includes an up-to-date listing of helpful organizations and other resources. Terry Zierenberg, R.N., C.D.E., is the program coordinator for the  Diabetes Care Center at Encino-Tarzana  Regional  Medical Center in Los Angeles, CA

conquering diabetes  Anne Peters, MD
Conquering Diabetes:  
As one of the top 20 physicians treating diabetes in America, director of the USC Clinical Diabetes Programs, and the physician currently in charge of developing the nation's largest outreach program for community-based diabetes prevention and treatment, Dr. Anne Peters treats a spectrum of patients, from Hollywood producers, writers, and stars who frequent her clinic in Beverly Hills to the poor who populate her free clinic in East L.A.

Authoritative and reassuring, Conquering Diabetes will arm readers and their physicians with the latest findings on the diabetes epidemic, helping them to confront the disease effectively and exponentially increase their quality of life.  For both Type 1 and Type 2 information.

According to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) there are approximately 18.2 million people with diabetes.  Someone is diagnosed every 30 seconds and someone dies from diabetes related complications every 3 minutes.

UPDATE:  According to the American Diabetes Association, as of 10/06/2006 this statistic has been change:  Someone is newly diagnosed with diabetes every 21 seconds!

101 tips for a healthy pregnancy with diabetes   Patti Bazel Geil, et. al.
101 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy with Diabetes:  
The newest installment in the American Diabetes Association's bestselling 101 Tips series helps women with diabetes cope with pregnancy using a quick, easy-to- read question-&-answer format. 101 Tips for a Healthy Pregnancy with Diabetes offers tips on topics such as pre-pregnancy; nutrition; managing medication; managing diabetes during pregnancy; making it through labor; postpartum; and much more.

type 2 the other diabetes   
Elizabeth N. Hiser

Type 2, The Other Diabetes:  Type 2 diabetes affects over 16 million Americans, making it one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States. Hiser, a dietician and the nutrition editor of Eating Well magazine, rightfully credits diet as a major tool in the control of the disease and the prevention of disabling complications. Explanations of diabetes and why diet plays a critical role for the diabetic are clear and coherent. Exercise is emphasized in ways that all readers can adapt to their current lifestyles. Hiser advocates a Mediterranean diet that, while relatively high in monounsaturated fat, is primarily plant-based (i.e., grains, fruits, and vegetables), with a low emphasis on meat and dairy products. Concrete information and advice on "good" foods, supplements, and meal plans are covered, and recipes and a resource list of associations are included. A good addition to all health collections.  Janet M. Schneider, James A. Haley Veterans Hosp., Tampa, FL


Diabetes Medical Library                              main "Diabetes Information" page
Diabetes Information and Statistics

Diabetes onset: A combination of genes & environmental Influences

  Dr. Gavin, MD, PhD
Dr. Gavin's Health Guide for African Americans:
 Dr. James Gavin M.D., Ph.D., is president of Morehouse School of Medicine and chairman of the National Diabetes Education program. He covers wellness and the tools to achieve it. He discusses health topics of particular concern to the African American population: obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. His intergenerational, family-centered approach to health is the prescription for breaking the alarming cycle of lifestyle-caused diseases, which are now striking children, too. Key features: are focus on prevention of disease and tool kits for better health.

Mini Site Index
What is Diabetes?
Genetics & The Environment
Who Gets Type 1 Diabetes?
Who Gets Type 2 Diabetes?
Type 1 Transmission Rates
Type 2 Transmission Rates
Gestational Diabetes  

also, see Diabetes Genetic Research

What is Diabetes?

The two basic types of diabetes most people have heard of are Type 1 and Type 2.  There are actually more than two types of diabetes and the cause of diabetes varies.  Primary diabetes is when someone becomes diabetic unrelated to the onset of another disease.  Secondary diabetes can occur as a result of damage or disease to the pancreas from another disease such as hemochromatosis (iron overload) or cystic fibrosis (CF).  If the pancreas is damaged from disease, an injury or surgically removed and can no longer produce insulin a person will develop secondary type 1 diabetes.

Pancreatic Beta Islet Cells

Type 1 diabetes occurs when the insulin producing beta islets cells in the pancreas are destroyed.  The person will become insulin dependent, meaning they will require daily injections of insulin for life.  Inhaled insulin may someday be available, but for now, people with type 1 must take shots or use an insulin pump to administer insulin.

Type 2 diabetes is diagnosed when the body becomes resistant to insulin produced, causing the pancreas to over produce insulin, or, when the body cannot make enough insulin to keep up with demand.  Persons with type 2 may or may not have abnormal blood sugars (those that are insulin resistant my test in normal blood sugar ranges but are hyperinsulinemic -- they over produce insulin).  It is important to understand the difference between the two basic types of diabetes, the criteria involved in diagnosis, treatment options, and never to self-diagnosed.  Anyone with diabetes requires care and direction of a team of diabetes health professionals.

Other types of diabetes include gestational diabetes, maturity onset of diabetes in the young (MODY), latent autoimmune diabetes in adults (LADA) which is sometimes referred to as type 1.5 or slow onset type 1, and diabetes insipidus.


Genetics and The Environment:
Two Key Players in Who Will Develop Diabetes

The two main types of diabetes are type 1 and type 2.  They have different causes and may require different treatment approaches.  But both have one thing in common:  a genetic factor.  With both types of diabetes you must inherent the predisposition for diabetes (almost always from both parents) and second, something in the environment must trigger the disease.

Twin studies show that genetic predisposition to diabetes is not enough to become diabetic.  Only half of identical twins with a diabetic twin sibling will also become type 1 diabetic.  However, the likelihood of an identical twin developing type 2 diabetes when a twin sibling has type 2 is much greater with a 75% chance of type 2 onset.

Type 1 Diabetes
Complete Information on Type 1 Diabetes

Even with a genetic predisposition for developing diabetes most people still do not get it.  This is why researchers focus on what environmental triggers contribute to the onset of diabetes in people.  More people are diagnosed with type 1 diabetes during winter months as well as in colder climates in general, so cold weather is a suspected environmental trigger.  Another trigger seems to be a virus, and diabetes is less common in breast-fed infants than those who started solid food at an early age.

People with diabetes often test positive (even years before onset) for a certain kind of autoantibody.  Antibodies are normally good; a protein that attack and destroy bacteria and viruses that invade the body.  But in diabetes autoantibodies (“auto” meaning self) mistake healthy cells for bad ones and these autoantibodies attack and destroy the insulin producing beta cells in the pancreas.

People with type 1 diabetes may often also have autoantibodies for Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.  In this case, the thyroid gland is attacked and destroyed and a person may end up with hypothyroid (low thyroid) and require medication.  Women with diabetes (type 1 or 2) may also have another autoimmune problem called polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).


Type 2 Diabetes
Complete Information on Type 2 Diabetes

Type 2 diabetes has a more significant genetic basis than type 1, but it too also depends more on environmental factors than genes.  A familial history of type 2 is a strong risk factor indicator for other family members but this seems to only really matter to Americans and Europeans.  Lifestyle, the biggest environmental trigger for type 2, plays a large role in which genetically predispositioned individuals will eventually become diabetic.  Those most affected in the United States are African Americans, Mexican Americans, and Pima Indians.  A sedentary lifestyle, coupled with a diet high in fat, processed carbohydrates, and low in fiber are a recipe for developing type 2 diabetes.  Obesity is also a risk factor for developing type 2 and insulin resistance often seen in obese persons can be a pre-cursor to developing type 2.  The younger an obese person is (i.e., children), and the length of time a person has been obese increase the risk factor for developing type 2.  Persons in other cultures, who have not adopted a “Westernized” lifestyle, do not seem to develop type 2 diabetes even when a genetic predisposition to diabetes is present.


Gestational Diabetes
Complete Information on Gestational Diabetes

Women who have a family history of diabetes, especially on the maternal side are more likely to develop gestational diabetes than other women.  As with type 1 and type 2, gestational diabetes is also greatly affected by non-genetic factors such as age (older women are more likely to develop gestational diabetes than young women) and being overweight.

Every woman who has had gestational diabetes should have an annual blood test to check for hyperglycemia (high levels of blood glucose).  Since 20 to 50 percent of women with GD will develop diabetes later in life, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.  Women with GD during one pregnancy have a 50% chance of developing GD with subsequent pregnancies.  

See "Genetic Transmission of Type 2 Diabetes," below, for how having gestational diabetes may affect your child's risk of developing type 2 diabetes later in life.

Note:  Babies are not born with type 1 or type 2 diabetes simply as a result of being born to a mother with gestational diabetes but they are at increased risk for birth defect and complications during delivery.


Genetic Transmission Rates for Diabetes
Complete Information on Type 1 Diabetes


Genetic Transmission of Type 1 Diabetes:
The Odds for Your Child

Genetic Transmission(1)

Odds of Being Passed to Child

Father with Type 1 Diabetes

1 in 17

Mother with Type 1 Diabetes
  and child is born before mother is age 25
  and child is born to mother age 25 or older

1 in 25
1 in 100

Both parents have Type 1 Diabetes, or if

Either Parent has MODY (Maturity Onset Diabetes of the Young)

Between 1 in 10 and 14

50% chance

Chart Notes
(1)  The risk of transmission to your child doubles if a parent was diagnosed with type 1 prior to age 11.  It is also important to remember that many people have the genetic predisposition for type 1 diabetes but never get the disease.


An exception to transmission data above is for those who have a condition called type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome.  About 1 in every 7 type 1 diabetics have this syndrome.  Those with this syndrome not only have diabetes but a thyroid disease and inadequately function adrenal gland, and some even have more immune system disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (women).  For those who have type 2 polyglandular autoimmune syndrome, children will develop this syndrome and type 1 diabetes 50% of the time.

There are genetic tests that can be conducted to help predict your child’s odds of developing type 1.  Most Caucasians with type 1 have either HLA-DR3 or HLA-DR4 genes.  If you and your child are Caucasian and share these genes, your child has greater risk of developing type 1. 

Parents who have a rare form of diabetes called maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY), their child has almost a 1-in-2 chance of getting it, too.

Glucose tolerance tests can be performed with children, as well as test to measure antibodies to insulin, especially if there are siblings with type 1.  This test measures antibodies to insulin, to islet cells in the pancreas, or to an enzyme called glutamic acid decarboxylase.  High levels can indicate that a child has a higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes.

Oral Glucose Tolerance Test Ranges (non-pregnant)
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test (pregnancy)


Genetic Transmission of Type 2: 
The Odds for Your Child
Complete Information on Type 2 Diabetes

Genetic Transmission(1)

Odds of Being Passed to Child

Both Parents have Type 2 Diabetes

50/50 chance of become type 2

If either parent has Type 2 Diabetes(2)
  and parent is diagnosed before age 50
  and parent is diagnosed after age 50

1 in 7 chance of becoming type 2
1 in 13 chance of becoming type 2

If mother has had gestational diabetes(3)

The child will be at increased risk for childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. Risk may increase even more with large birthweight babies.

Chart Notes
(1)  Type 2 diabetes runs in families in many parts of the world.  An unhealthy sedentary lifestyles and poor eating habits is learned behavior and greatly impacts whether or not a child will become type 2 diabetic.  How old a parent is when diagnosed also helps indicate the odds of their child developing type 2:  if a parent is diagnosed before age 50 the child’s odds are 1 in 7 of becoming type 2.  If the parent is over age 50 when diagnosed, the child’s chances of developing type 2 are 1 in 13.

(2) It is suspected that maternal transmission is more likely than paternal transmission. However, if both parents are type 2 their child has a 50/50 chance of becoming type 2 diabetic as well.

(3)  Every woman who has had gestational diabetes should have an annual blood test to check for hyperglycemia (high levels of blood glucose).  Since 20 to 50 percent of women with GD will develop diabetes later in life, it is important to be aware of the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.  Women with GD during one pregnancy have a 50% chance of developing GD with subsequent pregnancies


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Page Updated 08/16/2006