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What causes type 2 diabetes?

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Key fact:
The exact cause of type 2 diabetes is not fully understood. It seems to be the result of excess body weight and physical inactivity. Your genetic make-up can also make you more likely to develop it.

There are several factors that make developing the condition more likely.

Type 2 diabetes is more common in those who:

  • are South Asian, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern
  • are overweight or obese
  • are over 40
  • have a close relative with type 2 diabetes
  • have a waist measuring more than 31.5 inches (80cm) if you are a woman or more than 37 inches (94cm) if you are a man
  • have had impaired glucose tolerance or impaired fasting glycaemia - sometimes called 'pre-diabetes'
  • have had gestational diabetes (diabetes in pregnancy).


Type 2 diabetes can occur for two reasons:

  • your body may not make enough insulin to keep glucose levels in the blood within a normal range
  • your body may not react to insulin in the right way, which is called insulin resistance.

See also What is type 2 diabetes?