Human ingenuity and a voracious sweet tooth helped us discover artifical sweeteners, but sweet dreams of sugar's taste without sugar's consequences might be too good to be true.  According to a new study reported in Science Daily , artificial sweeterners may harm useful gut bacteria, leading to glucose intolerance - the first step to metabolic syndrome and diabetes.

In one experiment, scientists gave some mice water laced with three artificial sweeteners, and other mice plain water or sugar water. The mice who drank artificial sweeteners became glucose-intolerant.

Since the body does not recognize the artificial sweeteners as “food,” the sweeteners pass through trillions of bacteria in the gut, altering and potentially damaging them along the way. The same study was conducted using human subjects, and researchers found that participants who consumed artificial sweeteners had begun to develop glucose intolerance after just one week of the experiment. People who are glucose intolerant are essentially pre-diabetic, so the fact that some of these subjects developed glucose intolerance after only one week of artificial sweeteners is significant.

So, should you stop eating artificial sweeteners altogether? Possibly, but moderation is key in most situations. The findings certainly suggest the obsession with artificial sweeteners could do us more harm than good, and there are many natural sweeteners available to help sweeten pretty much anything you have a hankering for. But everything should be taken with a grain of salt - or, you know, sugar.

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