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Kava and balance: The effects of traditionally influenced kava consumption on human physiology

In recent years there has been increasing interest in the effects of kava as a medicinal substance. However, there are unknown facets of kava effects that continue to be the issue of debate within the literature. One such area is the discussion about whether kava causes drinkers to lose their balance, which has been largely ignored by researchers. There is a single comprehensive study which investigates the issue (Prescott, Jamieson, Emdur, & Duffield, 1993). The thesis opens with an introduction which outlines the basis of kava research and the justification for this research project; it is the first study to investigate the association between consuming kava at naturalistic volumes and increased body sway. The need to understand the issue is elevated by evidence which suggests that kava drinkers routinely drink kava for many hours and then drive home. As part of the requirements for this project, a journal article was submitted as a result of a data collection session involving experienced kava drinkers (N=6; low numbers were in part caused by time constraints and the COVID-19 lockdown period). The methodology was based on past naturalistic kava experiments and influenced by Post-Development Pacific Framework. Methods: Data collection surrounding a culturally influenced kava session (6 hours), involving experienced kava drinkers, 10-minute drink intervals (100ml kava), and three test batteries; pre-test (baseline), mid-test (3 hours) and post-test. Tests: Force Plate Centre of Pressure (COP) – 3x30s closed eyes, closed stance condition, and y-balance test – anterior condition, 3x right leg then 3x left leg. The current study neither confirmed nor disputed the evidence that kava may induce increased body sway when consumed at high volumes. As a result, further research is needed as there is still a wealth of anecdotal evidence which suggests the effect may be moderate or significant. However, the current study did not replicate the results of Prescott et al., (1993), a study which involved a similarly low number of participants, lower volumes of kava consumption, and similar data collection duration. As a result, the results of this thesis project suggest further research is needed; to fill the gaps in kava pharmacodynamics and addressed issues apparent in replicability of body sway studies. The study provides a protocol and methodological framework for future, more controlled studies investigating kava’s effects on human body sway.  
Type of thesis
Aughton, H. (2020). Kava and balance: The effects of traditionally influenced kava consumption on human physiology (Thesis, Master of Health, Sport and Human Performance (MHSHP)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14110
The University of Waikato
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