Sugar is an addictive substance that is one of the worst drugs for the body, and the global obesity epidemic is evidence of that. Many people have turned to sugar substitutes in an effort to eliminate sugar from their diets and live a healthier lifestyle.

However, research from the University of Sydney suggests that artificial sweeteners aren’t as healthy of an alternative to sugar as they claim to be. In fact, they can actually increase your appetite, and the long-term effects of artificial sweeteners can be quite damaging for the body.

The study’s lead researcher and genomics expert, Greg Neely, had this to say in a press statement:

“We found that inside the brain’s reward centers, 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.”

To come up with these results, researchers altered the diet of fruit flies for five days by adding artificially sweetened substances to their food. The control group consisted of fruit flies with an unaltered diet. After the five days, researchers found that the fruit flies with the artificially sweetened diet consumed 30 percent more calories than the control group.

The same study was performed on mice to test the consistency of the results for mammals. Researchers found similar results when the tests were run on mice, with the most interesting result showing that mice “displayed a significant increase in food consumption, and the neuronal pathway involved was the same as in the fruit flies.”

Artificial sweeteners are currently touted for their ability to “treat people with obesity,” but the clinical studies supporting this claim are shrinking. Critics of this particular study claim that the simplistic nature of the experiment renders the results inaccurate because scientists failed to account for the complex and varied diet of humans.

Perhaps to be on the safe side, we should all just stop drinking sugary, carbonated beverages. If you just can’t part ways with your favorite sweet drinks, try limiting your intake, but diet soda isn’t the best alternative.