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Case-control study of the association between kava use and ischaemic heart disease in Aboriginal communities in eastern Arnhem Land (Northern Territory) Australia
  1. A R Clough1,
  2. Z Wang2,
  3. R S Bailie3,
  4. C B Burns2,
  5. B J Currie4
  1. 1Menzies School of Health Research and Northern Territory University, Darwin, NT, Australia
  2. 2Menzies School of Health Research, Darwin, NT
  3. 3Menzies School of Health Research and Flinders University, NT Clinical School
  4. 4Menzies School of Health Research & NT Clinical School, Darwin, NT
  1. Correspondence to:
 Dr A Clough
 c/o Northern Territory University, PO Box 1479, Nhulunbuy, NT, 0881, Australia;

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Kava, (Piper methysticum Forst. f., “Intoxicating pepper”), is a consciousness-changing muscle relaxant consumed in the Pacific islands and, since 1982, by indigenous Australians in eastern Arnhem Land (Northern Territory, NT) using dried powder imported from Fiji or Tonga.1 Very heavy use was widespread in Arnhem Land during the 1990s.1 Circumstantial evidence suggests that kava consumption is associated with ischaemic heart disease (IHD) and sudden cardiac deaths among, particularly, young Aboriginal sportsmen in this population.2


In a case-control study, cases comprised 83 people admitted to hospital for the first time during 1992–1997 from the region with a medical officer’s confirmed diagnosis of IHD (ICD9 Codes 4100–4149). Of these, 25 were admitted on more than one occasion. Up to four randomly selected controls (n = 302) were matched with each case for age, sex, and home locality. NT registries indicated that a further 20 people with no record of hospital admission died with IHD during 1992–1997. These were matched with 75 controls. Comprehensive data were not available to identify IHD morbidity before 1992.

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