Wearing loose-fitting boxers – or, better yet, no underwear at all – might improve men’s fertility, new research suggests.
The question of ‘boxers or briefs’ has divided men for decades, embarrassed former President Bill Clinton and been treated like a crystal ball for the future of a new boyfriend by women’s magazines and sitcoms.
But it turns out, the answer might really matter to a couple trying to conceive.
Researchers at Harvard University found that the concentration and quality of men’s sperm really did vary according to the style of underwear they wore.
Men’s fertility is far easier to assess: the more sperm the merrier, and the better they swim the more likely they are to succeed in fertilizing an egg.
Sperm is produced throughout the vast majority of a man’s life, with production slowing and sperm quality falling off dramatically at age 70.
An average man will make 525 billion sperm over the course of his life, so his supply is potentially limitless, for all intents and purposes.
The reproductive cells are produced in the testes, which are housed outside the main body cavity in the scrotum.
As many as 1.2 billion sperm at a time might get a shot at fertilizing a woman’s single egg, but they have to be health.
And sperm are finicky cells.
They require just the right temperature – slightly lower than the 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit typical of the body – in order to develop properly.
This is why the testes hang outside the body, contracting closer to the body when the outside world is too cold or relaxing away from the body when they are too warm.
Sperm handle heat particularly poorly. If the scrotum gets too hot too frequently – think too many Jacuzzi sessions – the testes will actually stop producing sperm altogether, rendering a man temporarily sterile.
It doesn’t take much of a temperature hike to upset sperm production either. As little as a third of degree can spell disaster for a man’s swimmers.
Now, the Harvard study suggests that, like many women, sperm are even sensitive to man’s personal style when it comes to his underwear.