Near Three-fold Risk of Diabetes in Children of Parents with Type 2 Diabetes

People who have parents with type 2 diabetes may have up to a 2.9-fold increased risk for this disease. This is suggested by results of the Potsdam EPIC* study – a large-scale, population-based longitudinal study with more than 27,000 study participants. The findings of the research team led by DZD scientists Matthias Schulze and Kristin Mühlenbruch of the German Institute of Human Nutrition (DIfE) have now been published in the journal "Diabetes Research and Clinical Practice".

In addition to the DIfE scientists, researchers of the German Diabetes Center in Düsseldorf and Helmholtz Zentrum München were involved in the data analysis, which is a cooperative project of the German Center for Diabetes Research eV (DZD).
As the new findings show, a family history of diabetes has a relatively strong influence on diabetes risk. People who have a mother or father with type 2 diabetes have alone through this factor a 1.7-fold increased diabetes risk compared to individuals with similar characteristics but without a family history of diabetes. When both parents have diabetes, the children have a nearly threefold risk. This is similar to an increase in risk equivalent to aging 10 or 20 years. In the case of both parents with type 2 diabetes, a forty-year-old person has about the same risk as a sixty-year-old person whose mother and father do not have the disease.

Increased risk does not inevitably mean development of the disease
“An increased risk due to a family history of the disease does not inevitably mean that a person will develop diabetes,” said Kristin Mühlenbruch, lead author of the study. “A healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet can significantly help delay the onset of the disease or even prevent it,” added Matthias Schulze, head of the Department of Molecular Epidemiology at the DIfE.
With the Diabetes Risk Test**, which was published by the DIfE in 2007, every adult can determine his or her personal diabetes risk. The test is based on data from the Potsdam EPIC study and, when information on various lifestyle factors and body measurements are entered, enables the quick and easy determination of the individual diabetes risk. Currently, the test does not yet consider the factor of a family history of diabetes because the data basis for weighting this risk factor is not yet sufficient. However, in the future the scientists want to utilize the new study results in order to optimize the risk test in terms of risk prediction.

Background information
* EPIC: European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition.
The EPIC study is a prospective study that investigates the links between diet, cancer and other chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes. Twenty-three administrative centers in ten European countries participate in the EPIC study with a total of 519,000 adult study participants. The Potsdam EPIC study, with more than 27,000 participants, is part of the EPIC study. ** The risk test: DIfE – GERMAN DIABETES RISK TEST® (DRT) is available as an online and questionnaire version at The test is based on data from the Potsdam EPIC study and is validated using data of the Heidelberg EPIC study, the Tübingen Family Study for Type 2 Diabetes, the study "Metabolic Syndrome Berlin Potsdam" and – within the scope of the current study – using data from the MONICA / KORA study (monitoring trends and determinants in cardiovascular disease / Cooperative Health Research in the Augsburg Region).
Several factors influence a person's risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Some of these risk factors can be changed, others not. Modifiable factors include waist circumference, diet, physical activity, smoking habits and alcohol consumption. Factors such as age, body size and genetic predisposition, however, cannot be influenced. Each of these factors affects the risk of developing diabetes to a varying extent.

Original publication:
Mühlenbruch et al., 2014. Update of the German Diabetes Risk Score and External Validation in the German MONICA/KORA study.
Link to Journal Publication