Science finally has an answer to the boxers vs briefs debate, thanks to a study out of Harvard University school of public health — and Elaine Benes was right all along.
In Seinfeld Episode 90, which debuted in 1994, Elaine tells Kramer that if he ever wants to have kids he shouldn’t wear briefs. “Boxers are much better for your sperm count,” she says.
Now, that claim has been approved by Harvard, as well as some other info unearthered, thanks to researchers at the T.H. CHan School of Public Health looking into boxers vs briefs and sperm count.
In a study published this week, the researchers found that men who most frequently wore boxers had “significantly higher sperm concentrations,” as well as higher total sperm counts compared to men who wore briefs more often.
That means that a man’s choice in (restrictive) underwear may inhibit his sperm production, researchers said.
Boxers vs briefs: an age-old debate
“Whether underwear choice affects sperm production has been a topic of research for several years,” Lidia Mínguez-Alarcón, research scientist at the school of public health and lead author on the paper, told Metro.
While that was part of the inspiration for the study, Mínguez-Alarcón said that they wanted to look into if boxers vs briefs affected other markers of testicular function as well, like reproductive hormones and outcomes of DNA fragmentation. Sperm DNA fragmentation, when DNA strands break or separate, is significantly higher in infertile men.
In terms of reproductive hormones, the study looked at FSH levels, or “follicle stimulating hormones,” a hormone released by the brain. Without normal FSH levels in men, experts say, it may be impossible to create normal sperm, leading to infertility.
So how does the boxers vs briefs debate play into these more scientific questions?
“We found that men who wear tighter underwear have lower sperm counts, which was consistent with previous literature, but we were very surprised with the findings of higher FSH levels among this group of men,” said Mínguez-Alarcón. “That hormone (in the brain) is responsible for the sperm production.”
This suggests “a potential compensatory mechanism,” she noted,in these men’s bodies. Basically, when a man wears tighter underwear, his body tries to compensate for that restriction by amping up the production of this hormone to try to produce more sperm.
“The testicles are outside the body because they have to be a bit cooler than the temperature of the body,” Mínguez-Alarcón explained. “Men that wear tighter underwear have altered spermatogenesis based on the scrotal heat.
Boxers vs briefs and sperm: the Harvard study
For the study, researchers collected info and semen samples from 656 men who were at the Fertility Clinic at Massachusetts General Hospital. These men, who were between 32 and 39 years old, were part of couples that were seeking fertility treatment.
At the fertility clinic, the men answered a survey that included the boxers vs briefs debate. The men were asked about the style of underwear they wore in the previous three months and could answer “boxers, jockeys, bikini, briefs or other.”
Fifty three percent of the men reported that they usually wear boxers, and these men were associated with 25 percent higher sperm concentrations and 17 percent higher total sperm counts compared to those who did not primarily wear boxers. The biggest difference in sperm concentration was found between the men who wore boxers and the men who wore jockeys and briefs.
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,” per the study.
In terms of the hormones, just over 300 study participants also had blood samples collected that showed that men who wore boxers had 14 percent lower levels of FSH.
“Beyond providing additional evidence that underwear choices may impact fertility, our study provides evidence, for the first time, 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,” said Jorge Chavarro, senior author of the study and associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology, in a statement.
So: boxers vs briefs, which do you choose? Well guys, it depends on how bad you want to be a dad.