Beta cells are vulnerable to more than just bad genes, which may explain the associations between type 2 diabetes and environmental factors that aren't related to how much fat a body has or where it is stored. Beta cells carry vitamin D receptors on their surface, and people with vitamin D deficiency are at increased risk for type 2. Plus, several studies have shown that people with higher levels of toxic substances in their blood—such as from the PCBs found in fish fat—are at increased risk of type 2 diabetes, though a cause-and-effect relationship hasn't been proved. (Toxic substances and vitamin D have also been implicated in type 1 diabetes, but the disease mechanism may be unrelated to what's going on in type 2.)
The beta cells may be another place where gene-environment interactions come into play, as suggested by the previously mentioned studies that link beta cell genes with type 2. "Only a fraction of people with insulin resistance go on to develop type 2 diabetes," says Shulman. If beta cells can produce enough insulin to overcome insulin resistance, a factor that may be genetically predetermined, then a person can stay free of diabetes. But if the beta cells don't have good genes propping them up, then diabetes is the more likely outcome in a person with substantial insulin resistance.
The United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study (UKPDS) was a clinical study conducted by Z that was published in The Lancet in 1998. Around 3,800 people with type 2 diabetes were followed for an average of ten years, and were treated with tight glucose control or the standard of care, and again the treatment arm had far better outcomes. This confirmed the importance of tight glucose control, as well as blood pressure control, for people with this condition.
People with full-blown type 2 diabetes are not able to use the hormone insulin properly, and have what’s called insulin resistance. Insulin is necessary for glucose, or sugar, to get from your blood into your cells to be used for energy. When there is not enough insulin — or when the hormone doesn’t function as it should — glucose accumulates in the blood instead of being used by the cells. This sugar accumulation may lead to the aforementioned complications.