Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis L.) extracts (RE) are natural antioxidants that are used in food, food supplements and cosmetic applications; exert anti-inflammatory and anti-hyperglycaemic effects; and promote weight loss, which can be exploited to develop new preventive strategies against metabolic disorders. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to evaluate the preventive effects of rosemary leaf extract that was standardised to 20 % carnosic acid (RE) on weight gain, glucose levels and lipid homeostasis in mice that had begun a high-fat diet (HFD) as juveniles. The animals were given a low-fat diet, a HFD or a HFD that was supplemented with 500 mg RE/kg body weight per d (mpk). Physiological and biochemical parameters were monitored for 16 weeks. Body and epididymal fat weight in animals on the HFD that was supplemented with RE increased 69 and 79 % less than those in the HFD group. Treatment with RE was associated with increased faecal fat excretion but not with decreased food intake. The extract also reduced fasting glycaemia and plasma cholesterol levels. In addition, we evaluated the inhibitory effects of RE in vitro on pancreatic lipase and PPAR-γ agonist activity; the in vitro findings correlated with our observations in the animal experiments. Thus, the present results suggest that RE that is rich in carnosic acid can be used as a preventive treatment against metabolic disorders, which merits further examination at physiological doses in randomised controlled trials.