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An understanding of the events that initiate metabolic inflammation (metainflammation) can support the identification of targets for preventing metabolic disease and its negative effects on health. There is ample evidence demonstrating that the initiating events in obesity-induced inflammation start early in childhood. This has significant implications on our understanding of how early life events in childhood influence adult disease. In this Review we frame the initiating events of metainflammation in the context of child development and discuss what this reveals about the mechanisms by which this unique form of chronic inflammation is initiated and sustained into adulthood.