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Why Don't We See Atherosclerosis in Veins?

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Atherosclerosis is named as such because it happens primarily in arteries and does not occur in veins. Interestingly, one of the only times it is seen in a vein is when a vein has been used as an artery for a coronary bypass. The prevailing theory in medicine is that high cholesterol, especially of the LDL variety, is what causes plaque build-up on the lining of an artery. Since cholesterol is distributed evenly throughout the blood, in both veins and arteries, and it is supposedly what causes arterial plaque, you would think that we would see atherosclerosis evenly in both. You would also think we would see atherosclerosis more evenly distributed in arteries as well. Since neither of these happen, there must be more to the story. Turns out elevated cholesterol is not the driving aspect of atherosclerosis.

In my blog titled “Why LDL May Go Up on a Ketogenic/Carnivore Diet”, I discuss how higher cholesterol has actually been shown to have benefits when it comes to cardiovascular disease. Therefore, I will refer you there for that discussion. If it’s not cholesterol that clogs arteries, then what is it? And why do we only see it in arteries? Well, while LDL in the blood does not drive the formation of atherosclerosis, the answer to what does still lies within the blood.

Of the components that make up our blood, about half of it is plasma. Nearly all of that plasma is actually water. This is very important because it turns out water has some pretty interesting properties given the right circumstances. Understanding these properties will help us understand the root of what causes atherosclerosis.

Dr. Gerald Pollack at the University of Washington has been studying water for a long time. He has found that it behaves unlike any other liquid. Its’ most biologically relevant behavior is that it has the ability to hold energy. (r) We have all been taught that H2O can be found in three phases; solid, liquid, and gas, or ice, water, and steam. But Pollack has found that water can exist in a 4th phase that is between the solid and liquid phase. (r) The ability of it to do this relies on the water being supplied enough energy and it being next to the right surface. It has been called structured water, exclusion zone (EZ) water, or 4th phase water. For our discussion it is most relevant to call it EZ water and you will see why.

Dr. Pollack and his team have found that when you put water next to a hydrophilic (water loving) surface and it is given an energy source (like radiant energy from infrared light), it does some interesting things. The H2O water molecules split into two molecules; a molecule comprised of one oxygen and one hydrogen and a molecule of hydrogen alone. The molecule of oxygen/hydrogen goes next to the hydrophilic surface and combines with other oxygen/hydrogen molecules and they start to build layers of gel-like water. These layers then stack up tightly next to the hydrophilic surface and form a zone of EZ water.

Since the oxygen in the oxygen/hydrogen is larger and has a negative charge, the collective gel-like layers become net negatively charged. The leftover hydrogens are push to an area next to the formed EZ water. This is illustrated in the figure below.

This is relevant to our discussion because in his book, The 4th Phase of Water, Dr. Pollack says, “We also saw exclusion zones next to natural biological surfaces; they included vascular endothelia, regions of plant roots, and muscle.” (r) So when water, of which blood is almost half, is next to a natural biological surface that is shaped like a tube, like a blood vessel, you could imagine that the EZ water forms around the entire lining of the tube. Here is the scene in our blood vessels, we have a hydrophilic surface in the shape of a tube with EZ water lining the tube and the excess hydrogens in the middle of the tube. The more build-up of EZ water the more hydrogens end up in the center of the tube.

Now, there is major significance regarding the fact that we now have a very negatively charged area and a very positively charged are in this environment, but that is for another discussion as it is more relevant to another concept about the cardiovascular system that is best left for a future blog post. As far as atherosclerosis goes, we are much more concerned with the mere formation of the EZ water.

There is a reason that Pollack and his team named this water “Exclusion Zone” water. As you may be able to guess, it is because the nature of how the EZ water forms, the layers are a little off set from each other, it excludes everything that is not EZ water from the area the EZ forms in. Pollack says, “Even red blood cells, several strains of bacteria, and ordinary dirt particles scraped from outside our laboratory were excluded. The protein albumin was excluded.” The ability of this EZ water to exclude everything else present in the blood means that it serves as sort of a protective barrier between the blood and our blood vessel lining, the endothelia.

What this means is that if we have a healthy, intact EZ water layer in our arteries that nothing can get to the artery wall to damage it. Therefore, even if cholesterol caused atherosclerosis, which it doesn’t, it wouldn’t matter if you had high LDL, VLDL, small dense molecules, or ApoB; nothing can get through