The increasing incidence of obesity is a serious global public health challenge. Although the obesity epidemic is largely fueled by poor nutrition and lack of exercise, certain chemicals have been shown to potentially have a role in its aetiology. A substantial body of evidence suggests that a subclass of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which interfere with endocrine signalling, can disrupt hormonally regulated metabolic processes, especially if exposure occurs during early development. These chemicals, so-called 'obesogens' might predispose some individuals to gain weight despite their efforts to limit caloric intake and increase levels of physical activity. This Review discusses the role of EDCs in the obesity epidemic, the latest research on the obesogen concept, epidemiological and experimental findings on obesogens, and their modes of action. The research reviewed here provides knowledge that health scientists can use to inform their research and decision-making processes.