When Splenda (aka sucralose) hit the U.S. market in 1999, we thought we were set for life. No calories, 600 times as sweet as refined sugar, and best of all -- no tooth decay, Mom!

Sadly, as with most good things in life, there's a catch. Duke University scientists just published research demonstrating health detriments of the guilt-free sweetness: Besides contributing to obesity, it damages "good" intestinal bacteria and inhibits the absorption of prescription drugs.

How could a sugar substitute lead to weight gain? One theory is that artificial sweeteners mess with the way your body reads sweet tastes, so when you do eat something with real sugar, it's harder to limit your intake. Another hypothesis is that artificial sweeteners don't raise the body temperature the way real sweets do, and a lowered temp leads to overeating and make it harder to burn calories.

Now, here's where things get really interesting: The bombshell-dropping study was funded by the Sugar Association, which obviously sees Splenda as a competitor.

And in 2004, the Sugar Association sued Splenda's manufacturer on charges of misleading advertising, forcing a slogan change from "Made like sugar, so it tastes like sugar" to "It's made from sugar. It tastes like sugar. But it's not sugar." Turns out, while a sugar molecule is used in the process of making Splenda, no sugar (sucrose) actually remains at the end.

It sounds to us like Splenda's manufacturers may have something to hide, but the Sugar Association naturally has an agenda.

Tell us! Will you think twice before Splenda-fying? Or is it safe to stick with Splenda?

If you're anything like us, the mention of sugar/fake sugar/whatever gets your sweet tooth
crying out for something tasty. Feed the craving with this gallery of the most delectable, indulgent desserts ever.

1,600 Calories...and Worth It?

    Cosi Double Trouble Brownie Sundae, Calories: 1,594, Total Fat: 95 g
    "One warm chocolate brownie & one blondie topped with two scoops of vanilla ice cream, whipped cream & a cherry." Seven nights on the treadmill, alternating between self-loathing and considering eating another one when you get home.

    Laura Gilbert

    Chili's Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie, Calories: 1,600, Total Fat: 78 g
    Why have dessert when you can have novelty dessert?! It comes to your table fajita-style, sizzling in a cast iron skillet. And it's soaking in a vat of cinnamon butter. (Kind of like your heart.)

    Southeast Star, Flickr

    Romano's Macaroni Grill's Dessert Ravioli, Calories: 1,630, Total Fat: 74 g
    This Italian-inspired concoction consists of peanuts, caramel and chocolate in fried pastries served with vanilla ice cream and, uh, more caramel. Don't worry, their New York Cheesecake only has 1,610 calories.

    Watori Goro, Flickr

    P.F. Chang's Great Wall of Chocolate with Raspberry Sauce, Calories: 2,240, Total Fat: 89 g
    Well, it does have 20g of protein and we can write off the raspberry sauce as being in the fruit group, so it's sort of like salad, right?


    Applebee's Sizzling Apple Pie with Ice Cream, Calories: 1,086, Total Fat: 56 g
    There's nothing more American than warm apple pie -- that has over a thousand calories. The ice cream melts over the sizzling sugary crust, creating a hot-and-cold classic for your piehole.


    Baskin-Robbins Heath Bar Shake, Calories: 2,310, Total Fat: 108 g
    We like our coffee like we like our men: blended with Heath ice cream and caramel and tastefully garnished with whipped cream and pieces of candy bars.


    Mimi's Café Chocolate Chip Pecan Pie, Calories: 1,879, Total Fat: 111 g
    Why choose between pecan pie and a chocolate dessert when you can jam them both onto one plate? Plus, pecans = heart-healthy fats, right? Right? Come back here, we're having chest pains.


    Friendly's Caramel Fudge Brownie Sundae, Calories: 1,530, Total fat: 70 g
    An Oreo brownie with five scoops of ice cream, hot fudge, caramel and whipped cream. Who could have guessed those ingredients would add up to such high digits? We blame new math.


    Don Pablo's Chocolate Volcano Cake, Calories: 1,380, Total Fat: 77g
    (Not to be confused with the 1997 film.) Take one chocolate cinnamon cake, drop it in a pool of molten chocolate butter sauce, scoop ice cream on top and shovel into maw. Burp.


    On the Border Chocolate Turtle Empanadas, Calories: 1,280, Fat: 729 g
    Really, how better to wash down a meal of fried flour, refried beans and guac than a pile of pastries filled with chocolate, caramel and pecans. With ice cream. Delicioso!