In a new study from Harvard University, researchers find that men who most frequently wear boxers have much sperm production than men who did not usually wear boxers.
Previous research has shown that high temperatures can harm testicular function, but whether and how different styles of underwear may impact sperm production are not clear.
In the study, the team collected information and semen samples from 656 men who were part of couples that were seeking treatment at a fertility center.
These men were between the ages of 32 and 39. They answered questions about the style of underwear they wore in the previous three months. Options included boxers, jockeys, bikini, briefs, and other.
The researchers found that among the men, 53% reported usually wearing boxers.
Analysis of semen samples showed that these men had 25% higher sperm concentrations and 17% higher total sperm counts than men who did not often wear boxers.
Men who wore boxers also had higher percentages of motile sperm, or sperm that are capable of moving through the female reproductive system and fertilizing an egg.
The biggest difference in sperm concentration was seen between men who wore boxers and men who wore jockeys and briefs.
The team also analyzed blood samples from 304 men of the study.
The results showed that men who wore boxers had 14% lower levels of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) compared with men who didn’t wear boxers.
The hormone is known to play an important role in male fertility and is linked to sperm production.
This suggests that in men in tighter underwear, the brain boosts the production of hormones that stimulate the activity of the gonads to try to increase sperm production.
The research team says their findings point to a relatively easy change that men can make when they and their partners are seeking to become pregnant.
The study also provides evidence that a seemingly random lifestyle choice could have profound impacts on hormone production in men at both the level of the testis and the brain.
The study was conducted in the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón is the lead author of the study and research scientist at the Harvard Chan School.
Jorge Chavarro is senior author of the study and associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology.
The study is published in Human Reproduction.
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