The objective of present study was to investigate the effect of curcumin on insulin resistance and hepatic lipid accumulation in intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Rats with a normal birth weight (NBW) or IUGR were fed basic diets (NBW and IUGR groups) or basic diets supplemented with curcumin (NBW-C and IUGR-C groups) from 6 to 12 weeks. Rats with IUGR showed higher levels of glucose and homeostasis model assessment index (HOMA-IR) (P<0.05) than in NBW group. The livers of IUGR rats exhibited higher (P<0.05) concentration of triglyceride and lower (P<0.05) activities of lipolysis enzymes compared with the normal rats. In response to dietary curcumin supplementation, concentrations of serum insulin, glucose and HOMA-IR, pyruvate, triglyceride, total cholesterol and non-esterified fatty acid in the liver were decreased (P<0.05). The concentrations of glycogen and activities of lipolysis enzymes in the liver were increased (P<0.05) in the IUGR-C group than in the IUGR group. These results were associated with lower (P<0.05) phosphorylated insulin receptor substrate 1 (IRS-1), Akt, glycogen synthase kinase 3β (GSK3β) and expressions of sterol regulatory element binding proteins 1 (SREBP1) and fatty acid synthase (FASN); decreased expressions for Cd36, Srebf1 and Fasn; increased (P<0.05) expression of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor α (PPARα) and expressions for Ppara and hormone sensitive lipase (HSL) in the liver of IUGR-C rats than the IUGR rats. Maternal malnutrition caused insulin resistance and lipid accumulation in the liver. Curcumin supplementation prevented insulin resistance by regulating insulin signaling pathways and attenuated hepatic lipid accumulation.