What Causes Type 2 Diabetes?

As with many other long-term conditions, there’s no single cause of type 2 diabetes, but there are several factors that may contribute to whether or not you’re at risk of developing it.

Type 2 diabetes is caused by the body being unable to properly process insulin, a hormone that helps to control blood sugar levels in the body. According to the American Diabetes Association, type 2 diabetes happens when the body becomes resistant to insulin, and blood sugar is too high rather than staying at a normal level.

Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes

While, as mentioned above, there are no definitive type 2 diabetes causes, factors that may make you more at risk include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, excess body fat, a family history of diabetes, or a previous issue with gestational diabetes (diabetes that occurs during pregnancy but goes away post-partum).

Dietary Factors

As diet is often strongly linked to the development of diabetes, people often assume it’s the only thing that contributes to the development of the condition. This is because diabetes and being overweight, or eating an unhealthy diet, is a risk factor. However, diet is only one potential contributing factor, and there are many others to consider.


Some genes have been linked to an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Genes control every single one of the body’s processes, and these processes vary from person to person. Our genes can influence our blood sugar levels, how fat is distributed around the body, and how well the muscles utilize glucose from the blood. Tiny gene variations can have significant impacts on how our bodies control blood sugar.


Stress can cause many different responses in the body. One of which is an increase in the naturally-occurring steroid hormone cortisol. This can temporarily disrupt the digestive system, and if the stress becomes long-term or chronic, it can lead you to develop insulin resistance. Inability to process insulin then turns into type 2 diabetes.


Several medications have also been linked to the development of type 2 diabetes. These medications include:

  • Thiazides
  • Corticosteroids
  • Statins
  • Beta-blockers

Diabetes that’s thought to be caused by medications is known as drug-induced diabetes.

Pollution, Environment, Plastics, and Chemicals

Instances of type 2 diabetes have grown massively over the last few years. This increase has led to an upswing in research into the condition, as scientists try and figure out why so many more people are being diagnosed than ever before.

This research has discovered that environmental pollution, plastic, and other chemicals we come across in our everyday lives may be contributing to our risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Among the chemicals and environmental pollutants that have been linked to increased diabetes risk are traffic pollution and a type of chemical called phthalates. Phthalates are found in several plastics, and even in some makeup products.

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