Traditional kava beverage consumption and liver function tests in a predominantly Tongan population in Hawaii

Clin Toxicol (Phila). 2007 Jun-Aug;45(5):549-56. doi: 10.1080/15563650701365875.


Purpose: To determine the effects of traditionally prepared kava beverages on the liver function tests of regular kava beverage consumers in a population of Tongan and non-Tongan residents of Hawaii (Oahu).

Methods: The liver function tests of 31 healthy adult kava drinkers were compared against a control group of 31 healthy adult non-kava drinkers. Subjects were recruited from the general population, a kava bar, and Tongan kava drinking circles. The liver function profile included AST, ALT, ALP, GGT, and bilirubin (total and direct). Other tests included total protein, albumin, and screens for viral hepatitis and hemochromatosis when indicated.

Results: Chronic kava beverage consumption was associated with elevation of GGT in 65% of the kava drinkers versus 26% in the controls (P = .005). ALP was elevated in 23% of kava drinkers versus 3% in the controls (P = .053).

Conclusion: Heavy kava beverage consumption was associated with significantly elevated GGT levels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Alanine Transaminase / blood
  • Alkaline Phosphatase / blood*
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases / blood
  • Beverages / adverse effects*
  • Bilirubin / blood
  • Female
  • Hawaii
  • Humans
  • Kava / chemistry*
  • Liver Function Tests
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase / blood*


  • Plant Extracts
  • gamma-Glutamyltransferase
  • Aspartate Aminotransferases
  • Alanine Transaminase
  • Alkaline Phosphatase
  • Bilirubin