Fetal development is dependent on maternal supply of fuels and building blocks. Disturbed maternal metabolism or inappropriate maternal nutrition confronts the fetus with an unfavourable intra-uterine milieu. Structural and functional adaptations occur during development and maturation of organs. Consequences of these fetal alterations persist postnatally and may result in metabolic alterations throughout life. Gestational diabetes can occur in these offspring and transmit the effect to the next generation. These alterations in fetal development can be associated with fetal macrosomia (maternal diabetes) or fetal growth-restriction (maternal/fetal malnutrition). The relation between birth weight and later metabolic disease therefore is U-shaped. Adult metabolic condition is thus to a considerable extent programmed in utero, fetal and neonatal weight being symptoms of disturbed fetal development. This concept of intra-uterine programming of disease is illustrated with a review of epidemiological human studies and experimental animal studies.