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Almost 2 billion adults in the world are overweight, and more than half of them are classified as obese, while nearly one-third of children globally experience poor growth and development. Given the vast amount of knowledge that has been gleaned from decades of research on growth and development, a number of questions remain as to why the world is now in the midst of a global epidemic of obesity accompanied by the “double burden of malnutrition,” where overweight coexists with underweight and micronutrient deficiencies. This challenge to the human condition can be attributed to nutritional and environmental exposures during pregnancy that may program a fetus to have a higher risk of chronic diseases in adulthood. To explore this concept, frequently called the developmental origins of health and disease (DOHaD), this review considers a host of factors and physiological mechanisms that drive a fetus or child toward a higher risk of obesity, fatty liver disease, hypertension, and/or type 2 diabetes (T2D). To that end, this review explores the epidemiology of DOHaD with discussions focused on adaptations to human energetics, placental development, dysmetabolism, and key environmental exposures that act to promote chronic diseases in adulthood. These areas are complementary and additive in understanding how providing the best conditions for optimal growth can create the best possible conditions for lifelong health. Moreover, understanding both physiological as well as epigenetic and molecular mechanisms for DOHaD is vital to most fully address the global issues of obesity and other chronic diseases.