Acute exacerbations of Crohn's disease are usually treated with prednisolone or potentially more toxic immunosuppressive drugs or by surgery. In pilot studies replacing the normal diet by a protein free elemental diet also induced remission. A controlled trial was therefore conducted in which 21 patients acutely ill with exacerbations of Crohn's disease were randomised to receive either prednisolone 0.75 mg/kg/day or an elemental diet (Vivonex) for four weeks. Assessment at four and 12 weeks showed that the patients treated with the elemental diet had improved as much as and by some criteria more than the steroid treated group. Elemental diet is a safe and effective treatment for acute Crohn's disease.