Causes of Diabetes Mellitus

Diabetes mellitus (DM) is a condition where the body is not able to regulate levels of glucose (a sugar) in the blood. There are three types of diabetes mellitus: type 1, type 2 and gestational diabetes. While the causes of all three differ, a combination of genetic and environmental factors both lead to development of the disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2007, 23.6 million people in the U.S., or 7.8 percent of the population, were diagnosed with diabetes.

Family and Personal History

Most cases of type 1 diabetes are associated with having a genetic disposition for the disease from both parents. For people with a family history of type 1 diabetes, autoimmune disorders and viral infections can trigger the disease. Heredity may also play a factor in causing type 2 diabetes, a stronger link than type 1 for people living in the U.S., according to the American Diabetes Association. Family history of any type of diabetes along with multiple gestation (e.g., twins) can predispose you to develop diabetes during your pregnancy. Also, if you were diagnosed with gestational diabetes, this may cause type 2 diabetes later in life.


According to “How the Body Works” encyclopedia of anatomy, excess body fat disrupts the balance of blood glucose, fat and insulin. When you eat, excess blood sugar is stored in the liver and other organs. As the organs cannot store any more glucose, it converts into fat. Consequently, the more fat cells become full, the less blood sugar they take in. With all the excess glucose in the bloodstream, the pancreas pumps out more and more insulin until it can no longer be produced. Obesity is often the common denominator for people diagnosed with type 2 and a causative factor for gestational diabetes.


Also according to the CDC, your race and ethnicity can predispose you to the disease. African-Americans, Hispanic and Latino-Americans and American Indians are at a relatively higher risk for developing type 2 diabetes. As for type 1, Caucasians have the highest rate according the American Diabetes Association.

About this Author

Based in Chicago, Jojo Genden is passionate about sharing her health and wellness expertise through writing since 2008. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Rockford College, and a Bachelor of Science in nursing from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. Genden is a registered nurse in the state of Illinois with a background in intensive care.