Epidemiological studies, including those in identical twins, and in individuals in utero during periods of famine have provided robust evidence of strong correlations between low birth-weight and subsequent risk of disease in later life, including type 2 diabetes (T2D), CVD, and metabolic syndrome. These and studies in animal models have suggested that the early environment, especially early nutrition, plays an important role in mediating these associations. The concept of early life programming is therefore widely accepted; however the molecular mechanisms by which early environmental insults can have long-term effects on a cell and consequently the metabolism of an organism in later life, are relatively unclear. So far, these mechanisms include permanent structural changes to the organ caused by suboptimal levels of an important factor during a critical developmental period, changes in gene expression caused by epigenetic modifications (including DNA methylation, histone modification and microRNA) and permanent changes in cellular ageing. Many of the conditions associated with early-life nutrition are also those which have an age-associated aetiology. Recently, a common molecular mechanism in animal models of developmental programming and epidemiological studies has been development of oxidative stress and macromolecule damage, specifically DNA damage and telomere shortening. These are phenotypes common to accelerated cellular ageing. Thus, this review will encompass epidemiological and animal models of developmental programming with specific emphasis on cellular ageing and how these could lead to potential therapeutic interventions and strategies which could combat the burden of common age-associated disease, such as T2D and CVD.