Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States (10.5% of the population suffers from it).1)—and yet it is terribly misunderstood by most people. There are all kinds of misconceptions about the causes of type 2 diabetes. For this reason, you might think you have done something wrong if you are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. But the truth is that the condition is the result of a combination of factors, some of which may be beyond your control. Ultimately, type 2 diabetes occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin properly. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to change this. Keep reading to find out what really causes type 2 diabetes and what you can do to prevent it.
What is type 2 diabetes?
In short, type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that occurs when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin (or doesn’t use it efficiently), causing too much glucose (or sugar) to flow through your body. blood, according to National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). Over time, high blood sugar can cause problems with the immune, nervous, and circulatory systems. Note: If your body has started having problems producing insulin and using glucose, but your blood sugar hasn’t yet reached a worrying level, you may be diagnosed with prediabetes.
So what is the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes? Type 1 diabetes also occurs when there is too much glucose in the blood, but it is an autoimmune disease, which means the body attacks insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.
What causes type 2 diabetes?
Experts don’t know exactly what causes type 2 diabetes, but there are several factors at play – some are within your control (think: getting enough exercise) while others are out of your control (like genetic). Here are some possible causes:
The main culprit of type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance, occurs when your body doesn’t use insulin effectively, leading to high blood sugar. Glucose is what your body uses for energy. But there’s a lock on it, which means it can’t enter your cells on its own; it needs insulin to do this (think of insulin as a key that opens the lock so that glucose can enter).
Insulin resistance happens when your key (insulin) isn’t working as well as it should. Sometimes it unlocks and sometimes you have to perform a series of acrobatic hand movements to get the lock to open. Since glucose does not enter your cells regularly, this means that there is extra circulation in your blood, which increases your blood sugar or blood sugar, which can lead to type 2 diabetes.
There’s something else going on with insulin resistance. Your body cannot make enough insulin to make up for the extra glucose. As a result, more glucose ends up circulating in your blood, which can damage your cells and lead to complications that affect your eyes, kidneys and nerves, according to a 2019 study published in the journal Nature.2
Excess body fat
So what causes insulin resistance in the first place? The answer is complicated, and it doesn’t happen overnight. But one of the main factors is excess body fat, which can cause inflammation throughout your body. This inflammation can then set off a chain reaction that ultimately leads to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Lipids in Health and Disease.3
It is important to note that not everyone with type 2 diabetes is clinically considered overweight, and not everyone who is overweight has type 2 diabetes.
Your genes and how you grew up
Inheriting certain genes can increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. If you have a relative with type 2 diabetes, your risk increases by 40%, according to a 2015 study published in the journal Genoa. If both parents have it, this risk increases to 70%. And compared to the general population, you have a three times higher risk if you have a parent or sibling with type 2 diabetes.4