A large-scale study at Harvard confirms what smaller studies have shown: boxers are better for sperm count than briefs.
Boxers or briefs? For decades, that question’s been a feature in male celebrity interviews. The responses cater to the craving of obsessive fans to feel a bit of naughty intimacy with a star. But now that question and its answer have a far more practical application. A new study shows that tight underwear can negatively affect male potency.
Sperm count in American men drops by 50% in the last 40 years
This mysterious phenomenon gives added momentum to efforts to increase sperm efficacy. There’s a good biological reason why evolution caused men’s reproductive apparatus to be external. The outside positioning of the scrotum keeps the testes 4 to 6 degrees cooler than the body’s internal temperature. And that’s the ideal temperature to produce happy sperm cells.
“Any exposure to heat that significantly increases temperature is likely to affect spermatogenesis [sperm production],” said Dr. Jorge Chavarro, a professor at Harvard’s School of Public Health and a lead author of a new study of male fertility recently published in Human Reproduction.
The report focused on 656 men who were part of couples seeking infertility treatment from Massachusetts General Hospital between 2000 and 2017. In their preparation for treatment, the men filled out a survey which included a question about what sort of underwear they wore, boxers or briefs.
Men’s underwear choice affects fertility
Dr. Chavarro sees the findings of his study as conclusive. “What we saw is that type of underwear is related to semen quality,” he said. “Guys who wear boxers had higher sperm concentration than men who wore more tightly fitting underwear.”
The researchers also examined other factors that affect sperm, such as the sperm’s swimming ability, the proportion of abnormal sperm, and DNA damage in sperm. They found that the type of underwear the subjects wore had no effect on these other sperm efficacy factors.
While the report’s findings are straightforward, controversy promptly ensued
It was pointed out that the men in the study were, of course, seeking treatment because they were experiencing difficulty in creating a pregnancy. The problem may have been attributable to the female side of the equation. Still, given the context, the men were likely to be outside the mainstream in terms of sperm normalcy.
Dr. Bruce Gilbert, a professor of urology at Hofstra’s Zucker School of Medicine, said the study ignores other significant factors, like what sort of pants were worn by the subjects. For example, he says, wearing tight jeans could offset any cooler temperature advantage to be gained from boxers.
However, as Chavarro logically points out, there’s very little downside in making the change from briefs to boxers. Neither a man’s budget nor his lifestyle is apt to be significantly impacted when he keeps his testicles cool.
This is a factor to consider when couples are wanting to get pregnant. Keep the boys cool and your guy’s chances to become a father can bounce up! Let me know what you think. Thaïs
About Dr. Thais Aliabadi
As one of the nation’s leading OB-GYNs, Dr. Thaïs Aliabadi offers the very best in gynecological and obstetric care. Together with her warm professional team, Dr. Aliabadi supports women through all phases of life. She fosters a special one-on-one relationship between patient and doctor. We invite you to establish care with Dr. Aliabadi. Please click here to make an appointment or call us at (844) 863-6700.
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