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The Longevity Of Your Parents (& In-Laws) May Affect Your Diabetes Risk


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mbg Associate Food & Health Editor

By Merrell Readman

mbg Associate Food & Health Editor

Merrell Readman is the Associate Food & Health Editor at mindbodygreen. Readman is a Fordham University graduate with a degree in journalism and a minor in film and television. She has covered beauty, health, and well-being throughout her editorial career.

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We know that genetics plays a major role in our health throughout our lives, but the well-being of your parents may be intricately tied to your risk of developing diabetes in particular. A study published by Frontiers in Clinical Diabetes and Healthcare found that in a review of 500+ families in the United States and abroad, children of individuals with “exceptional” longevity and their spouses are less likely to develop diabetes and, in fact, have a more impressive metabolic profile overall.

The study confirmed, “We found that both offspring and their spouses, especially middle-aged, may share a similar, low rate of type II diabetes, which is lower than the rates observed in general adult population from the most recent National Health Interview Survey.” Here’s what that means.

What causes type II diabetes?

Type II diabetes occurs when your pancreas is not making enough insulin, resulting in high blood sugar. While type I diabetes is caused by your pancreas not making any insulin at all, the second variation can sometimes develop due to lifestyle habits, and may be more common in those who exercise less frequently or follow less balanced diet. However, it’s important to note that a number of factors may be the root cause for this diagnosis.

What does the study tell us?

According to the study findings, when parents followed healthy habits and were classified with “exceptional longevity,” those individuals’ offspring (along with their partners) were likely to develop type II diabetes. “While hereditary influences, such as genetic and/or epigenetic mechanisms, are likely to play a significant role in type II diabetes risk, shared environmental factors are also likely to contribute to our findings.”

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It seems that people who were raised by parents with impressive longevity were more likely to choose healthy partners, therefore reducing the risk of developing type II diabetes due to their positive habits. “Spouses were actually more likely to be physically active and to report moderate alcohol consumption when compared with the offspring, and both of these lifestyle factors may reduce type II diabetes risk,” the study notes. So much for opposites attract!

However, this one study doesn’t provide all the necessary information on the tie between a lower risk of type II diabetes and marrying into a healthy family. Further research may be useful in understanding the connection and health benefits. (Bonus perks if you get along with your in-laws, perhaps?)

The takeaway.

Although there’s not much you can do about your parents’ lifestyles and how you were raised (much less the habits of your in-laws) this recent study presents a fascinating perspective on generational health.

We’re not saying you’re doomed to develop diabetes down the line if your parents aren’t as healthy as they could be, and more research is necessary to understand this interesting connection. However, you can certainly thank mom and dad if they’re upholding positive habits as they transition into older age.

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