Do Nerd Clusters Cause Cancer?

In a TikTok now viewed nearly 274,000 times, user aidevi_n6go3ayz lists “The Top 5 Foods You Should Never Eat.” Earning first place on his list are Nerds Gummy Clusters, a popular type of candy in the United States. The self-proclaimed “Global high quality dietary nutrition provider” explains that these candies are “filled with artificial food dyes” which are “literally known to cause cancer, as they contain carcinogens.” As a result of Aidevi’s claims, many viewers began to wonder whether their favorite gummy candy might be more sinister than they had realized. In this article, we address the question: Do Nerd Gummy Clusters Cause Cancer? We will discuss the ingredients contained in Nerd Clusters and critically evaluate whether there is evidence linking such ingredients to cancer risk.
Faith Wershba

Faith Wershba

Postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge.

A blue image with text saying "Do Nerd Clusters Cause Cancer?"

A General Tip

Always approach health and nutrition claims on TikTok with an appropriate degree of skepticism, especially those that seem overly simplistic or sensationalized.

Ingredients in Nerds Gummy Clusters

Nerds Gummy Clusters contain the following ingredients [1]:

  • Corn syrup sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Modified corn starch


  • Malic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Sodium citrate
  • Natural and artificial flavors
  • Apple juice concentrate
  • Acacia (gum arabic)
  • Caranuba wax carmine color
  • BLUE 1
  • RED 40
  • RED 40 LAKE
  • YELLOW 5
  • YELLOW 6

Health concerns surrounding Nerds Gummy Clusters are most often linked to the candy’s use of artificial dyes.

Artificial Food Dyes and Cancer: What Does the Literature Say?

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) lists several of the food dyes contained in Nerds Gummy Clusters as “additives of concern” [1]. It is worth noting that Nerds Clusters contain other food dyes apart from those discussed below, but these are classified by the EWG as “lower concern” so we will not focus on them here. For dyes listed as more concerning, we seek to address the question: Does evidence suggest that consuming these additives increases one’s risk of cancer?

Red 40

A study by Zhang et al. examined the impact of Red 40 dye on DNA damage, colon cell morphology, and microbiome composition in mice [2]. The authors reported that increasing concentrations of Red 40 dye in vitro correlated with increased levels of DNA damage markers such as p53 and p53 phosphorylated at the Ser15 residue [2]. The authors also reported increased colonocyte size and increased infiltration of inflammatory immune cells within the colons of mice fed Red 40 compared to those fed a control diet. The authors concluded that these findings suggest Red 40 may have the potential to promote the development of colon cancer in mice [2]. However, it is important to note that the mice were fed relatively high concentrations of Red 40 for a prolonged period of time, whereas most humans consume Red 40 in small quantities and at infrequent intervals. Thus, further research is required to determine whether such findings have physiological relevance in a human context.

Blue 2 Lake

There does not appear to be recent evidence linking Blue 2 dye to the development of cancer. A study conducted in 1989 reported no signs of carcinogenicity in mice or rats fed diets supplemented with Blue 2, even when the dye was administered at concentrations 3-5 times higher than that of a similar dye, Blue 1 [3]. However, Blue 2 dye was associated with non-cancerous adverse effects, including the development of non-neoplastic lesions. Again, the relevance of such findings in a human physiological context remains unexplored.

Blue 1

In contrast to Blue 2 Lake, Blue 1 dye has been associated with slightly increased rates of certain cancers in studies conducted on rats and mice. The same 1989 study cited previously reported marginal increases in the number of hepatocellular nodules and carcinomas in male rats, as well as higher numbers of lung neoplasms and hyperplasias in female rats [3]. Both male and female mice fed Blue 1 dye demonstrated higher rates of liver adenomas and carcinomas compared to mice fed a control diet [3].

Blue 1 Lake

A 1985 toxicological study suggests some evidence of a link between Blue 1 Lake and carcinogenicity in rats and mice. Similar to Blue 1, Blue 1 Lake was associated with dose-dependent increases in the incidence of hepatocellular carcinomas, neoplastic nodules, and adenomas, as well as several types of lung hyperplasia in both male and female rats and mice [4]. Again, it is important to remember that the concentrations of Blue 1 Lake used in this study were relatively high and exposure to the dye occurred consistently over a prolonged period of time (103 weeks) rather than sporadically [4].

Yellow 5

While Yellow 5 dye has been studied for potential carcinogenicity, findings remain inconclusive. Animal studies conducted using Yellow 5 have not demonstrated that this dye increases cancer-associated markers or cancer incidence [5]. However, chemically similar yellow dyes, such as Yellow 3 and Yellow 14, have been weakly associated with cancer in some animal studies [6, 7].

Yellow 6

A study testing the toxicity and carcinogenicity of Yellow 6 reported that the dye was noncarcinogenic in both rats and mice [8]. Animals fed up to 2,000 mg/kg of Yellow 6 yielded negative results with regard to bone marrow micronucleus testing, a type of assay used to determine chemically induced chromosomal changes and genotoxicity [9]. Thus, the literature does not support a link between Yellow 6 dye and cancer development.


Nerds Gummy Clusters contain several artificial coloring agents, some of which have been associated with DNA damage and neoplastic changes in mice and rats. However, it is important to keep in mind that many of these studies exposed animals to fairly high concentrations of the dyes for extended periods of time, which is typically not the case when it comes to human consumption. This is not to say that Nerds Gummy Clusters are the healthiest option when it comes to snacking—they undoubtedly have a high sugar content and poor nutritional profile when it comes to fiber and protein. However, you can safely enjoy Nerds Clusters every now and then without fearing that they might give you cancer. As long as you are not consuming entire bags of Nerds Clusters on a daily basis, you most likely have nothing to worry about. Like most things, these candies can be consumed in moderation and within the context of a wholesome, balanced diet. If you have questions or concerns regarding your health and nutritional habits, the best person to ask for advice is most likely your physician—not TikTok.

Related Posts

Faith Wershba

Faith Wershba

Faith obtained her Honour’s Bachelor Degree in Human Biology, Immunology and History & Philosophy of Science at the University of Toronto. Currently, she is a postgraduate researcher at the University of Cambridge, focusing on the philosophy of medicine, science, biomedical research methods, and bioethics.