Tucking into food and drink packed with artificial sweeteners could actually be increasing your chances of gaining weight and getting struck down with diabetes, researchers claim.
Scientists from the University of Manitoba looked over 37 existing studies tracking more than 400,000 people for an average of 10 years to work out just how good artificial sweeteners are for you, AAP reports.
Researchers found substituting sugar could have a potentially negative impact on metabolism, gut bacteria and appetite, with diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity also cited as potential risk factors.
Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, they found that scientific evidence does "not clearly support" the intended weight-loss benefits of artificial sweeteners.
Ryan Zarychanski, a professor from the Canadian university involved in the study, said: "Despite the fact that millions of individuals routinely consume artificial sweeteners, relatively few patients have been included in clinical trials of these products."
The study found the benefits and drawbacks of sweeteners were conflicting.
Lead author Meghan Azad said: "Caution is warranted until the long-term health effects of artificial sweeteners are fully characterised.
"Given the widespread and increasing use of artificial sweeteners, and the current epidemic of obesity and related diseases, more research is needed to determine the long-term risks and benefits of these products."
Findings of the study were dismissed by industry bosses, who said the no-kilojoule ingredient had been "deemed safe" by health regulators across the world.