Sperm quality: boxer shorts or better briefs - which underpants should ideally be worn?

Do boxer shorts protect fertility?

There has been a long discussion among men about what type of underwear should be worn. An important argument in this discussion is the impact of worn underwear on fertility. Researchers are now looking into what underwear to wear to help produce healthy sperm.

In their current study, scientists at the Harvard TC Chan School of Public Health tried to find out what type of underwear men should wear to ensure the production of healthy sperm. The doctors published the results of their study in the English-language journal "Human Reproduction".

Underwear shouldn't limit fertility

What is important when choosing underwear for men? Is it about which underwear is the most comfortable or which underwear looks best? Doctors say that men should be particularly careful with their underwear that it does not restrict or reduce fertility. For a long time it was said on this topic that so-called boxer shorts are much healthier for the testicles and the production of healthy sperm. But does this statement also correspond to the facts?

Close-fitting underwear damages fertility

When investigating, Harvard TC Chan School of Public Health physicians found that tight-fitting undergarments are indeed associated with decreased sperm concentration and can lead to lower blood levels of the follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

Researchers find compensation mechanism

An important strength of the study is that the possible relationship between the type of underwear worn and indicators of testicular function were examined, such as reproductive hormone levels and DNA damage, which were not taken into account in all previous studies on this topic, explains the study author Dr . Lidia Minguez-Alarcon from Harvard TC Chan School of Public Health. For example, the physicians were able to find a potential compensation mechanism in which reduced sperm production in connection with the type of underwear signals the hypothalamus to increase the secretion of gonadotropin (hormones acting on the testes) in order to increase sperm production.

656 men participated in the study

For the study, 1,186 sperm samples from 656 different men were analyzed who wanted fertility treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2000 and 2017. A blood test was also performed on these participants so that doctors could examine the levels of FSH, estradiol (a form of estrogen) and luteinizing hormone (a hormone used in reproductive cell development). The experts found that the men who wore boxer shorts (53 percent of the participants) had a higher sperm concentration (plus 25 percent), a higher sperm count (plus 25 percent) and lower FSH levels (minus 14 percent). Factors that could affect sperm, such as age, BMI, smoking and the time between sampling and last ejaculation, were also taken into account by the scientists.

What were the limitations of the study?

However, the results of the study could be affected by the fact that 67 percent of the participants submitted only one sample. The study's authors explain that the quality of the sperm also changes with the daily rhythm. The so-called circadian variation can affect hormone production as well as a hot bath, the researchers say. The scientists tried to take these factors into account in their study as much as possible.

More research is needed

Hopefully, future studies will investigate the molecular mechanism of hormone level changes and testicular damage from underwear, Dr. Lidia Minguez-Alarcon. In this way it can be determined whether there are any clear (risk) patterns. (as)

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