Diet drinks have often been the preferred choice for those trying to cut calories or reduce their sugar intake, but new evidence further cements the idea that the artificial sweeteners in them and other foods are bad for your health.

How? Your gut is damaged by toxins released when these sweeteners are ingested. Researchers from Nanyang Technological University of Singapore and Israel’s Ben-Gurion University conducted an experiment where they exposed gut bacteria to six artificial sweeteners.

Aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, neotame, advantame, acesulfame potassium-k were each mixed with bioluminescent bacteria which “glow” when toxins are detected. Even at small levels, toxicity was found and as the amounts of sweetener were increased, so were the levels of toxins.

Healthy gut flora not only makes for a well-functioning digestive system, but is also connected to immunity, brain function, metabolism, nutrient absorption, and hormone regulation. The study, published in the journal, Molecules, also found that certain vital genes were reduced in the gut when one or more of the sweeteners was present.

Since the entire digestive system was affected, it shows that consumption of food products with these sweeteners could be responsible for a number of conditions of which people may be unaware. Besides soft drinks and sports beverages, you’ll also find these chemicals in breads, condiments, yogurts, and many items that say “reduced sugar” or “sugar free”.

You may or may not have noticed something is off with your digestive system, but if you were thinking of switching up your sugar habits in favor of one of these products, you might want to think again.

What are your thoughts on this study? Have you noticed any health affects from long-term consumption of these drinks or foods? Will it change what you eat or drink?