Billions of people buy them and they're often recommended to those looking to lose weight, but a new study by the University of Sydney and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research has revealed some damning side effects of consuming artificial sweeteners: namely, they might make you put on weight.

The study, published today in journal Cell Metabolism, found that artificial sweeteners can actually stimulate hunger. "After chronic exposure to a diet that contained the artificial sweetener sucralose, we saw that animals began eating a lot more," said lead researcher Associate Professor Greg Neely. "Through systematic investigation of this effect, we found that inside the brain's reward centres, sweet sensation is integrated with energy content. When sweetness versus energy is out of balance for a period of time, the brain recalibrates and increases total calories consumed."

Until now, little was known about the side effects of artificial sweeteners on the brain. This is the first study of its kind that identifies how artificial sweeteners work to stimulate appetite - and it also found that the white stuff can induce insomnia, hyperactivity and decreased sleep quality.

The study fed fruit flies and mice a diet laced with artificial sweeteners for prolonged periods and found that both species consumed considerably more calories than when they were given naturally sweetened food. The take-home message? Stick to the real deal.

A new study shows artificial sweeteners actually make you eat MORE