Type 2 diabetes, which occurs as a result of a poor diet, may be influenced by the interactions between genes and diet. Li and colleagues sought to verify these links but found that gene-diet interactions do not influence the risk of Type 2 diabetes.


Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is common in the Western world. This kind of diabetes occurs when blood sugar levels are too high, and the body gradually loses the ability to use insulin. Insulin helps us store sugar as energy in our body’s cells. Type 2 diabetes is typically linked to dietary factors, and to conditions like obesity. Past research has suggested that gene-diet interactions may play some role in the risk of developing diabetes. Clarifying these interactions could lead to better, more targeted treatments and prevention strategies.


In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Li and colleagues recently published a review of the available data on interactions between genes and diet and their role in Type 2 diabetes. The researchers included 13 studies that addressed macronutrient (e.g. carbohydrate) quantity or quality (e.g. fiber) using either self-reporting or biomarkers in about 1700 patients. The researchers then used the interactions identified by these studies and reviewed them in the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC) cohort study, with over 9400 individuals with Type 2 diabetes and between 11,700 and 12,500 controls.


In the 13 original studies, researchers found eight potential interactions between genes and macronutrients leading to increased risk of Type 2 diabetes. However, the researchers were unable to replicate these links between genes, macronutrient intake, and type 2 diabetes risk in the large EPIC cohort.


This new research suggests there are no gene-diet interactions leading to increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and that diet alone is responsible for the onset of the disease. Treatment and prevention strategies should focus primarily on dietary intake and do not need to be personalized based on an individual’s genetic makeup. Li and colleagues’ study is particularly important because it validates the results from previous work in a much larger group. However, it is possible that there are other gene-diet interactions leading to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes that were not identified in the 13 studies Li and colleagues reviewed.  Further, there is some variation in the way different researchers working at different locations of the EPIC study assessed dietary quantity and quality.


Written By: C. I. Villamil


Reference: Li et al. 2017. Interaction between genes and macronutrient intake on the risk of developing type 2 diabetes: systematic review and findings from European Prospective Investigation into Cancer (EPIC)-InterAct. Am J ClinNutr.

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