Of all the misconceptions about type 2 diabetes one of the worst is, “Only overweight people get diabetes.” What some may fail to realize is that there is a genetic risk factor associated with type 2 diabetes.

A new study is taking a closer look at lifestyle interventions versus genetic testing in preventing type 2 diabetes. We know that type 2 diabetes results from a combination of both genetic and lifestyle factors, but we don’t know if adverse lifestyles, like being overweight or sedentary, increase an individual’s underlying genetic risk of diabetes.

“If, for example, obese individuals with a high level of genetic risk have a higher risk of developing diabetes than obese individuals with a low level of genetic risk, then preventative strategies that target lifestyle interventions to obese individuals with a high genetic risk would be more effective than strategies that target all obese individuals,” says the study.

Researchers found that genetics played a larger role than lifestyle factors in the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in those who were younger and leaner. Most importantly, the research showed that the risk of type 2 diabetes increased in those who were obese whatever their level of genetic risk.

Is it in your genes?

The American Diabetes Association reports that type 2 diabetes has a stronger link to family history and lineage than type 1. “Lifestyle also influences the development of type 2 diabetes. Obesity tends to run in families, and families tend to have similar eating and exercise habits,” says the ADA. “If you have a family history of type 2 diabetes, it may be difficult to figure out whether your diabetes is due to lifestyle factors or genetic susceptibility. Most likely it is due to both. However, don’t lose heart. Studies show that it is possible to delay or prevent type 2 diabetes by exercising and losing weight.”

There is an estimated one in seven chance of a child being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes if one parent under age 50 has it. Research also suggests that the risk may increase to one in two children being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes if both parents have it.

To learn more about the genetic factors surrounding type 2 diabetes:

Is Diabetes in Our Genes?
Genetics Prove Protective Against Type 2 Diabetes
My Family's Got It, Type 2 Diabetes