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Volume 2012, Article ID 482186, 11 pages
Review Article

The Complex Interplay of Genetic and Lifestyle Risk Factors in Type 2 Diabetes: An Overview

1Genetic & Molecular Epidemiology Unit, Department of Clinical Sciences, Skåne University Hospital, Lund University, 205 02 Malmö, Sweden
2Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA 02115, USA
3Genetic Epidemiology & Clinical Research Group, Section for Medicine, Department of Public Health & Clinical Medicine, Umeå University, 90186 Umeå, Sweden

Received 16 August 2012; Accepted 26 September 2012

Academic Editors: A. B. Abou-Samra, G. Da Silva Xavier, and B. R. Gauthier

Copyright © 2012 Paul W. Franks. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Type 2 diabetes (T2D) is one of the scourges of modern times, with many millions of people affected by the disease. Diabetes occurs most frequently in those who are overweight or obese. However, not all overweight and obese persons develop diabetes, and there are those who develop the disease who are lean and physically active. Certain ethnicities, especially indigenous populations, are at considerably higher risk of obesity and diabetes than those of white European ancestry. The patterns and distributions of diabetes have led some to speculate that the disease is caused by interactions between genetic and obesogenic lifestyle factors. Whilst to many this is a plausible explanation, remarkably little reliable evidence exists to support it. In this review, an overview of published literature relating to genetic and lifestyle risk factors for T2D is provided. The review also describes the concepts and rationale that have motivated the view that gene-lifestyle interactions cause diabetes and overviews the empirical evidence published to date to support this hypothesis.