Dietary manipulations during the early postnatal period are associated with the development of metabolic disorders including non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) or long-term protection against metabolic dysfunction. We investigated the potential hepatoprotective effects of neonatal administration of oleanolic acid (OA), a phytochemical, on the subsequent development in adulthood, of dietary fructose-induced NAFLD. Male and female suckling rats (n=112) were gavaged with; distilled water (DW), OA (60 mg/kg), high fructose solution (HF; 20% w/v) and OA+HF (OAHF) for 7 days. The rats were weaned onto normal rat chow on day 21 up to day 55. From day 56, half of the rats in each treatment group were continued on plain water or HF as drinking fluid for 8 weeks. Hepatic lipid accumulation and hepatic histomorphometry were then determined. Fructose consumption in adulthood following neonatal fructose intake (HF+F) caused a 47–49% increase in hepatic lipid content of both male and female rats (P<0.05). However, fructose administered in adulthood only, caused a significant increase (P<0.05) in liver lipid content in females only. NAFLD activity scores for inflammation and steatosis were higher in the fructose-fed rats compared with other groups (P<0.05). Steatosis, low-grade inflammation and fibrosis were observed in rats that received HF+F. NAFLD area fraction for fibrosis was three times higher in rats that received fructose neonatally and in adulthood compared with the rats in the negative control group (P<0.05). Treatment with OA during a critical window of developmental plasticity in rats prevented the development of fructose-induced NAFLD.