Statistics prove that close relatives of diabetic patients are more likely to develop this metabolic disease. And the likelihood of becoming diabetic increases along with the number of relatives affected (one grandparent, one parent, both parents, the whole family).
But is this caused by genetics or by the fact that members of a family usually share common diet and lifestyle habits? The debate is still open, as it makes sense that people sharing the same unhealthy way of life should develop the same metabolic imbalances or diseases. Therefore, epigenetics have a huge impact on our diabetes risk.
Epigenetics study the global influence of our environment on the expression of human genes. While our genome itself has barely changed since Homo sapiens sapiens – modern man – came into being, and real mutations are extremely rare, it does adapt. This adaptation process influences the gene expression: some dormant genes are switched on (and/or some active ones are switched off) as a response to evolutionary changes. At any time, only 8,000 or so of the 24,000 genes in our DNA are activated. When our environment evolves, or our diet changes, we alter this gene expression pattern by activating formerly dormant genes. These ‘activations’ are transmitted to our descendants, and amplified as the ability to ‘light up’ these ‘off’ genes shall increase with each new generation