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May 14, 2002

Research: Causes and Prevention

Question from Caledonia, Ontario, Canada:

My dad has diabetes. What are the causes of diabetes? Can any preventative measures be taken? Can you please tell me a little about the treatment?


I do not know when your father developed diabetes, but type�1 diabetes usually develops in people under the age of 40 and is an autoimmune disease which causes the body to destroy the insulin-making beta cells. People who have type 1 diabetes need to replace the insulin they can no longer make by injection. people need to take insulin injections. Although there is a greater chance of developing this disease if you have a close relative with it, risk is not very high (about 7-8%). We are looking at ways to prevent this disease, but so far nothing has been proven to work.

Type�2 diabetes, on the other hand, is the far more common form of diabetes (about 90% of those with diabetes have this form). It usually develops after the age of 40 and people who have it are usually overweight. If your father has this type of diabetes, your risk is about 25% of developing it, but if you can keep your weight near normal, that will help a lot.


[Editor’s comment: You can look through Diabetes Basics for more detailed information. For information from recent studies, see DPT-1 and Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP).