What is the NOURISH-OK Study?

NOURISH-OK stands for Nutrition to Optimize, Understand, and Restore Insulin Sensitivity in HIV for Oklahoma. Surveys conducted by Tulsa CARES and others found that more than half of Oklahomans living with HIV have problems getting enough healthy food to eat for themselves and their families. The NOURISH-OK Study will help Tulsa CARES understand what causes food insecurity, how it may lead to health problems in HIV, and how we can help improve food security for our clients.

What is Insulin Sensitivity?

Insulin is the hormone in the body that allows the body’s cells to turn sugar into energy. When the body’s cells are sensitive to insulin, blood sugar levels can stay healthy. The opposite of insulin sensitivity is insulin resistance. When the body’s cells stop responding as well to insulin, blood sugars go up and weight gain can occur. Insulin resistance happens with many chronic diseases, including lipodystrophy, pre-diabetes, diabetes, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and polycystic ovarian syndrome (in women). Much less is known about why people living with HIV develop insulin resistance at higher rates and what may be causing insulin resistance. Emerging research suggests that food insecurity may be linked to insulin resistance, but we don’t know why this happens. Most scientists believe that insulin resistance can be reversed in the general population through certain eating and lifestyle changes, but we don’t know if these same things will work in people with HIV. The NOURISH-OK Study will help us to answer these questions so that food programs and nutrition services can better support the holistic health needs of clients.

How can I get involved?

Research participants are needed for all three parts of the NOURISH-OK study.

To take part in the first part of the study, you will need to be HIV-positive, taking antiretroviral therapy for at least 6 months, and earn no more than 400% of the poverty level (equals $51,040 per year if you are single).

To take part, you will complete a 90-minute visit with one of our research team members to discuss your eating, sleep, stress, physical activity, and other health habits. We will measure your body composition with a painless test and measure your body’s beta carotene (vitamin A) levels using a painless finger scan. You will also provide a small blood sample so we can see how these things may be affecting your risk for chronic disease. You will receive a copy of your nutrition results, a $50 gift card, and a small gift as a thank you for your time.

To sign up as a participant, you must first contact the study coordinator, Lacey Caywood, by calling 918-660-3690 or emailing nourish@tulsacares.org.

Community advisors are volunteers from Oklahoma’s HIV community that meet with the NOURISH-OK research team on a regular basis (usually monthly). Advisors help the study better meet community needs by providing the team with community feedback and input. They also help to raise community awareness about the study. Advisors do not need to have any experience with research to volunteer. Are you interested in being a community advisor? Email Casey Bakhsh at CaseyB@tulsacares.org to learn more.

Meet the Team

Casey Bakhsh, LCSW, is the Director of Programs at Tulsa CARES and has been on staff with the agency since 1999.
Marianne Wetherill, PhD, is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa and the lead researcher for the NOURISH-OK study. From 2005 to 2015, Marianne worked at Tulsa CARES in several roles, including as the registered dietitian, grant writer, and program evaluator. While at Tulsa CARES, Marianne started the farmer’s market program and led the Positive Eating Program for clients. She decided to partner with Tulsa CARES for this research study because she believes food can play an important role in supporting the health and happiness for all people with HIV. In her spare time, she likes to play with her daughter, work in the garden with her chickens, and drink coffee with her best friend and husband, Micah.
Lacey Caywood is the study coordinator for NOURISH-OK. She is a second year Master of Public Health student at OU Health Sciences Center. She has assisted with various research studies examining food insecurity and food as medicine interventions. Prior to working at OU Health, she led health and wellness programming at YWCA Tulsa for over ten years. The NOURISH-OK study is important to her because “..food can be a powerful tool to improve health and every person deserves consistent access to healthy, affordable, and acceptable food to lead a healthy, active life.” She believes NOURISH-OK will lay the groundwork for future food as medicine programs that will benefit the health of Oklahomans. In her spare time, Lacey enjoys knitting, reading horror novels, and spending time with her husband, her dog, Patches, and her cat, Loki.
Raegan Tremblay is a graduate research assistant for the NOURISH-OK study. She is a first year Master of Public Health student at OU Health Sciences Center. Raegan received her undergraduate degree from the University of Kansas and worked at a preschool for children with traumatic experiences in Kansas City, MO. She is passionate about healthy living, especially with nutritious foods at the forefront of her life. Originally from Tulsa, she is excited to take part in the NOURISH-OK study to help serve Oklahomans in an area that needs greater awareness. Outside of her schooling, Raegan enjoys hiking/camping with her girlfriend and their dogs, Petey and Willy.
Jacque Dukes is a graduate research assistant for the NOURISH-OK study. She graduated from Texas Christian University in May and is now a student in the University of Oklahoma- Tulsa College of Public Health master's program. While earning her undergraduate degree, Jacque worked in the nutrition center at the AIDs Outreach Center in Fort Worth, where she developed a passion for the HIV community and for nutrition. She is excited to be a part of this study because she believes that through a better understanding of how food impacts our health, we can help empower people with HIV. Jacque loves getting creative in the kitchen, watching true crime documentaries, and snuggling with her dogs.