BACKGROUND Reductions in urinary protein excretion after Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) surgery in patients with diabetic kidney disease have been reported in multiple studies. OBJECTIVES To determine the weight loss dependence of the effect of RYGB on urinary protein excretion by comparing renal outcomes in Zucker diabetic fatty rats undergoing either gastric bypass surgery or a sham operation with or without weight matching. SETTING University laboratories. METHODS Zucker diabetic fatty rats underwent surgery at 18 weeks of age. A subgroup of sham operated rats were weight matched to RYGB operated rats by restricting food intake. Urinary protein excretion was assessed at baseline and at postoperative weeks 4 and 12. Renal histology and macrophage-associated inflammation were assessed at postoperative week 12. RESULTS Progressive urinary protein excretion was attenuated by both RYGB and diet-induced weight loss, albeit to a lesser extent by the latter. Both weight loss interventions produced equivalent reductions in glomerulomegaly, glomerulosclerosis, and evidence of renal macrophage infiltration. CONCLUSION Weight loss per se improves renal structure and attenuates renal inflammatory responses in an experimental animal model of diabetic kidney disease. Better glycemic control post-RYGB may in part explain the greater reductions in urinary protein excretion after gastric bypass surgery.