Heterogeneity at the Helicobacter pylori cagA gene promoter region has been linked to variation in CagA expression and gastric histopathology. Here, we characterized the cagA promoter and expression in 46 H. pylori strains from Portugal. Our results confirm the relationship between cagA promoter region variation and protein expression originally observed in strains from Colombia. We observed that individuals with intestinal metaplasia were all infected with H. pylori strains containing a specific cagA motif. Additionally, we provided novel functional evidence that strain-specific sequences in the cagA promoter region and CagA expression levels influence interleukin 8 secretion by the host gastric epithelial cells.