Fertility Issues Caused By Men’s Underwear Divide Scientific Community

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(IN PHOTO) Neil Patrick Harris refers to a scene from the Oscar nominated film "Birdman" while hosting the 87th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California February 22, 2015. Reuters

Should wearing boxers or briefs be a concern for men? A research published on Fertil Steril in 2012 based on a joint study conducted by Université de Toulouse and University Paul Sabatier in France revealed that heat in men's nether regions had a huge influence on sperm quality. In an experimental prospective study involving five men, experts from the said universities examined whether induced testicular and epididymal hyperthermia (at +2°C) could affect sperm viability.

For the study, subjects were requested to wear a specially designed underwear for over 15 hours daily for 120 consecutive days.  Results revealed that sperm chromatin integrity started to drop at the 20th day, and that total sperm count steadily declined from day 34 until the end of the experiment.  

Interestingly, an earlier research by experts from the Health Sciences Center of the State University of New York found that a rise in testicular temperature does not interfere with sperm production, contrary to popular belief. The findings were published in the Journal of Urology in 1998.

In a study, the scientists measured the scrotal, core and skin temperatures of 97 men who either wore boxers or briefs, and who were candidates for primary clinical subfertility evaluation. As part of the preliminary evaluation, semen were obtained from all participants.

The opposite group, which was composed of 14 subjects, was asked to change to the alternative type of underwear, upon which they were evaluated. Data showed that mean scrotal temperature differences were not significant between the two groups.

"The hyperthermic effect of brief style underwear has been exaggerated. In our study there was no difference in scrotal temperature depending on underwear type," said Dr Robert Munkelwitz and Dr Bruce Gilbert, the authors of the study.

"It is unlikely that underwear type has a significant effect on male fertility. Routinely advising infertility patients to wear boxer shorts cannot be supported by available scientific evidence," they added.

Australia-based male fertility researcher Dr Sarah Meachem, on the other hand, maintained that wearing tight underwear is detrimental to one's sperm count.

"Wearing tight underwear is not very good for sperm production because you're keeping the testicles higher in the body and they're not actually hanging at a lower temperature," Meachem said to ABC. "They need to be at a lower temperature to have successful sperm production."

She noted, however, that the effects are temporary and can last up to three weeks. Meachem also debunked the theory that polyester underwear could cause infertility. She explained that there was no data to support the claim, and that there wasn't a "significant decrease in fertility" during the 70s and 80s, when polyester clothing were in vogue.

Heat and comfort will always be an inevitable issue for men when it comes to their skivvies, though it appears that underwear brands nowadays are equipped with a solution to all these. Underwear brands have stepped up their game with innovative styles, marrying technology and fashion design.

Performance and premium fabrics, for instance, currently take center stage in the underwear niche, as men opt for underwear that they can use both for the gym time and when they go out on dates.

According to NPD Group, “products with special features including odor and temperature control are experiencing growth, as are fabrics such as spandex, cotton/poly blend, and cotton/spandex blend,” are seeing tremendous growth in the male underwear market.

One underwear line that is popular in the category is Naked Brand Group Inc.'s Silver. The Canadian luxury brand's Silver collection is made with 99.9 percent pure silver woven into the nylon threads, which the company noted as "the most comfortable metal you’ll ever wear."

The underwear incorporates a patented fabric technology called X-Static, which regulates a man's body temperature to "keep him cool and chafe-free." It is also equipped with anti-odor and antimicrobial properties. Olympic Athletes, US Special Forces and NASA Astronauts attest to the benefits of Naked Silver, according to the company.

Naked President and CEO Joel Primus said in a statement, "Whether you're in the middle of an intense workout or an arduous long-haul flight, Silver underwear will keep you feeling fresh. We're not saying that you shouldn't change your underwear, but with Naked Silver, you can get away with wearing them a whole lot longer!"

Other brands are not to be left behind as well. Longworth Industries Inc. of North Carolina came out with a cotton underwear under its Polarmax AYGline that utilises a technology called TransDRY. According to a report on Gear Junkie, TransDRY is a fabric that "looks and feels like normal cotton, but it breathes like a synthetic." This quality was achieved through the application of a chemical treatment to the underwear threads that draw moisture away.

Brief inventor, Jockey, also uses a similar technology called Coolmax for its performance line of underwear. The underwear's fabric is lightweight and quick-drying, and provides adequate support where needed.

To contact the writer, email: v.hernandez@ibtimes.com.au