In three trials of subjects under heavy acute physical stress, common cold incidence decreased by on average 50%, and in four trials of British males common cold incidence decreased by on average 30% in the vitamin C groups. The dietary vitamin C intake in the UK is low, and consequently the benefit may be due to the correction of marginal deficiency, rather than high vitamin doses. Regular vitamin C supplementation (> or =1 g/day) has quite consistently reduced the duration of colds, but the size of the benefit has varied greatly. In the four largest studies the duration of colds was reduced only by 5%. In two of these studies, however, absence from school and work was reduced by 14-21% per episode, which may have practical importance. Three controlled studies recorded a reduction of at least 80% in the incidence of pneumonia in the vitamin C group, and one randomised trial reported substantial treatment benefit from vitamin C in elderly UK patients hospitalized with pneumonia or bronchitis.