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Introduction The (traditionally influenced) consumption of kava (Piper methysticum) has been associated with increased body sway, raising concerns about fall risk. However, studies typically utilise pill-styled kava extracts with a lack of understanding regarding experienced naturalistic kava drinkers. This pilot study investigated the effects of naturalistic kava consumption over a six-hour period on postural control.
Methods Six experienced male kava drinkers consumed 100ml of kava every 10 minutes over six hours in a culturally responsive setting. Postural control was examined at three time points (Pre, Mid, and Post) using a 30-seconds eyes-closed feet-together postural balance test conducted on a 3D force plate. Centre of pressure path length, average velocity, and area of the 95th percentile ellipse data were extracted and compared between time points using a one-way repeated measures ANOVA.
Findings There were no significant differences in the centre of pressure parameters. Based on the Pre and Post differences for path length and average velocity logged values, this study would require 19 participants to achieve an 80% power and 5% significance level.
Discussion Irrespective of limited sample size, our preliminary results do not support that kava consumption negatively affects postural control, findings that appear to be corroborated by a recent neuroscience study. The perceived risks of naturalistic kava consumption with regards to falls may be overstated. Further study on the physiological implications of kava consumption in naturalistic settings is needed to quantify the actual risks.
• Kava is a culturally significant drink for Pacific people
• Anecdotal reports describe impaired balance following high traditional use volumes
• Postural control was tested during and following kava use in a pilot study
• Contrary to hypothesis, results do not show that kava negatively affects postural control
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