Efforts directed toward enhancing animals’ productivity are focused on evaluating the effects of non-traditional feed additives that are safer than antibiotics, which have been banned because of their health hazards. Many studies used an amino acid that contributes to heme biosynthesis, known as 5-aminolevulinic acid (5-ALA), to promote the productivity of farm animals. However, these studies demonstrate inconsistent results. In order to develop a clear understanding of the effects of 5-ALA in farm animals, we comprehensively searched PubMed and Web of Science for studies evaluating 5-ALA effects on the performance, iron status, and immune response of different farm animals. The search retrieved 1369 publications, out of which 16 trials were relevant. The 5-ALA-relevant data and methodological attributes of these trials were extracted/evaluated by two independent researchers, based on a set of defined criteria. Samples were comprised of pigs, chickens, and dairy cows. The 5-ALA doses ranged from 2 mg to 1 g/kg of feed, and treatment duration ranged from 10 to 142 days. Overall, 5-ALA improved iron status in most studies and increased white blood cells count in 3 out of 10 studies, in addition to improving animals’ cell-mediated immune response following immune stimulation with lipopolysaccharide. Inconsistent findings were reported for growth performance and egg production; however, a combination of 10 mg/kg of 5-ALA with 500 mg/kg of vitamin C promoted the highest egg production. In addition, 5-ALA improved milk protein concentration. In conclusion, 5-ALA can enhance farm animals’ iron status and immune response; however, the heterogeneity of the reviewed studies limits the generalizability of the findings. Standard procedures and outcome measures are needed to confirm the benefits of 5-ALA. Attention should also be paid to any adverse effects.
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