A high-salt diet in humans and experimental animals is known to cause gastritis, has been associated with a high risk of atrophic gastritis, and is considered a gastric tumor promoter. In laboratory rodents, salt is known to cause gastritis, and when coadministered, it promotes the carcinogenic effects of known gastric carcinogens. Because Helicobacter pylori has been associated with a progression from gastritis to gastric cancer, we designed a study to determine whether excessive dietary NaCl would have an effect on colonization and gastritis in the mouse model of H. pylori infection. Seventy-two, 8-week-old female C57BL/6 mice were infected with H. pylori strain Sydney, and 36 control mice were dosed with vehicle only. One-half of the infected and control mice were fed a high-salt diet (7.5% versus 0.25%) for 2 weeks prior to dosing and throughout the entire experiment. Twelve infected and 6 control animals from the high-salt and normal diet groups were euthanized at 4, 8, and 16 weeks. At 8 and 16 weeks postinfection (WPI), the colony-forming units per gram of tissue were significantly higher (P < 0.05) in the corpus and antrum of animals in the high-salt diet group compared with those on the normal diet. Quantitative urease was significantly higher (P < 0.05) at 4 and 8 WPI in the corpus and antrum of animals on the high-salt diet when compared with controls. At 16 WPI, mice in both the normal and the high-salt diet groups developed moderate to marked atrophic gastritis of the corpus in response to H. pylori infection. However, the gastric pits of the corpus mucosa in mice on the high-salt diet were elongated and colonized by H. pylori more frequently than those in mice on the normal diet. The high-salt diet was also associated with a significant increase in proliferation in the proximal corpus and antrum and a multifocal reduction in parietal cell numbers in the proximal corpus, resulting in the elongation of gastric pits. We conclude that excessive NaCl intake enhances H. pylori colonization in mice and in humans and that chronic salt intake may exacerbate gastritis by increasing H. pylori colonization. Furthermore, elevated salt intake may potentiate H. pylori-associated carcinogenesis by inducing proliferation, pit cell hyperplasia, and glandular atrophy.